Last week, businessman and tea party hero Dan Maes defeated former congressman Scott McInnis to secure the GOP nomination for governor in Colorado. Both candidates stumbled to the primary under the weight of scandal. Maes’ razor-thin victory finally offered the GOP a chance to unite behind the GOP nominee against Denver Mayor and Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper.
However, during his victory celebration, Maes pointed out the “800-pound gorilla in the room” preventing conservative unity: former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO). Tancredo, who is now running a third-party candidacy under the umbrella of the American Constitution Party, abandoned the GOP in July after both McInnis and Maes failed to heed his demand that they drop out of the race. Deeming them “unelectable,” Tancredo believes he has “a better resume” as a committed conservative.
But his application is not faring well with the conservative base. On the same day he announced his candidacy, Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams and 21 state Tea Party leaders lambasted Tancredo for jeopardizing a conservative victory. And this Saturday, a defiant Tancredo was met by “a somewhat hostile crowd” at a Vail Valley 9.12 Project event in Colorado. The group of “constitutional conservatives” slammed Tancredo for pursuing the type of candidacy that he once said “guarantee[s] the re-election of liberals”:
Vail Valley 9.12 Project’s organizer Michael Schneider kicked off the event by talking about a letter Tancredo wrote to 9.12 members and Tea Party activists last December that said third-party candidates split conservative votes and guarantee the re-election of liberals and socialists.
“You will split the vote and (John) Hickenlooper will become the governor,” Schneider said. “Be a hero, be a champion of the conservative causes that you’ve always been — drop out of the race and come back to the conservative party.”
While Schneider believes Tancredo’s third-party candidacy ruins their candidate’s chances of winning, Tancredo insists on the opposite. In response to Maes’ request to stop his campaign, Tancredo said, “I think that [Maes is] the third-party candidate and it’d be a good idea for him to drop out to reduce the split among conservative voters.”
So far, Schneider is proving the wiser. A PPP poll of the gubernatorial race last week shows that while Hickenlooper is strong in any race, Tancredo reduces Maes’ support by 16 percentage points. This irony seemed to dawn on Tancredo during last week’s GOP primary. “Did you see the turnout? We did so much better than the Democrats,” Tancredo excitedly said of GOP voter participation before stopping himself. “I’ve got to quit saying ‘we,’” he said.