Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How King clone could capture Iowa Caucuses

Daily Times Herald Columnist

U.S. Rep. Steve King, his growing national reputation as a preening moralizer notwithstanding, likely won't make it to the White House.

But his clone in Congress, Republican Tom Tancredo, a man who looks and talks like western Iowa's representative in D.C. to the point that it recalls the old Spy magazine feature, "Separated at Birth," is lighting some fires with the base as a dark-horse candidate in 2008.

King (who has actually joked that he's the "blue-eyed Tom Tancredo) often appears with his twin on the House floor to make passionate cases for walls on our southern border (perhaps with some electrified wire) to reduce the flow of illegal immigration.

Both men are brilliant with paeans for the radical conservative movement.

The current edition of the progressive American Prospect magazine features a graphic of King's face with several of his white-hot comments on issues like the sex appeal of purported virgins in the alleged Muslim afterlife.

For his part Colorado's Tancredo is a Curtis LeMay throwback type who when asked how the United States should deal with another terrorist attack said, "Well, what if you said something like - if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites."

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," said the interviewer. "Yeah," Tancredo responded.

The message is resonating with likely GOP voters.

A highly influential poll conducted by John Zogby, one that lists candidates' resumes and biographies and no names, shows that Tancredo comes in fourth among several likely presidential candidates with Republicans.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich finishes first with 21 percent, U.S. Sen. John McCain is next with 13.3 percent, followed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 11.2 percent and Tancredo with 9.9 percent.

In a much less meaningful poll, Tancredo is coming in second (to Pennsylvania's U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum) with a 2008 presidential political button contest sponsored by the on-line T-shirt, book and brick-a-back store, Café Press.com.

And last Saturday at an anti-illegal immigrant protest in Maywood, Calif., a group fronted itself with a banner promoting Tancredo for president.

The Web site, Iowapolitics.com reports that Tancredo has made five visits to Iowa since November 2004.

Then, a couple of days ago, he chaired a field hearing on border security in Montana.

It's easy to see how Iowa conservatives could embrace Tancredo in the caucuses.

Immigration may very well be a winning issue for a Republican in Iowa.

What's more, his major weakness, name recognition, can be overcome. We see so many presidential candidates in the Hawkeye State that we can be under-whelmed like no other peoples by celebrity. That means the star power of a Rudy or McCain could be effectively countered with Tancredo's persistent position on immigration.

Cardinal rule in politics: winners with the bases play the race card. Tancredo and his supporters insist immigration issues are about security, the rule of law, and not race. But the truth is the brown skin of the people they're talking about factors heavily into the calculus.

With the lion king of hate speech at Tancredo's side in western Iowa, vouching for him and making the intros in towns that time left behind, Tancredo could pull off a caucus win. It's even easier to see the math work for him in a crowded primary field where, say 21 percent, could be the magic number.

I'm not suggesting that this scenario is a good thing.

Only that it could unfold.

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