May 4, 2007 12:16 AM
The invisible Tom: aka 'the shrinking violet'
"Some candidates seemed lost in the shuffle. Tom Tancredo, who has led the national debate against illegal immigration, was the shrinking violet and never really got a good chance to argue the issue."
So said Des Moines Register political columnist David Yepsen today, telling his statewide readership how Colorado's presidential entrant, Rep. Tom Tancredo, seemed to get lost in the shuffle during Thursday night's Republican debate.
Tancredo has been called many things. But a "shrinking violet?" That's a new one.
* * *
That's what Rep. Tom Tancredo's enthusiastic backers in Council Bluffs, Iowa, thought that their hero got out of Thursday night's nationally televised Republican presidential debate.
His fans cheered each time the Colorado conservative's face was projected onto the wall, and they hooted and hollered in agreement with what he said. But he was cut short in some answers and was skipped entirely in one round of questions.
See the full story HERE.
In the crucial, first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, three analysts said Tancredo did little to break out of the "other" category below the three so-called "front-runners" in the 10-man field.
For a detailed critique of Tancredo's performance, read on...
Consider one of the things that caught the attention of Mike Murphy, a Republican political consultant writing for www.politico.com (which co-hosted the debate with MSNBC):
"Surprisingly, Congressman Tom Tancredo didn’t hammer the powerful immigration issue."
Murphy's headline: "Dark horses fail to gallop into spotlight."
Grading the candidates at Time magazine's online edition, Mark Halperin was even more harsh, giving Tancredo a "D-." That put him at the bottom of the 10-person class.
"Amazingly, passed up chance after chance to highlight his unconditional, candidacy-defining anti-immigration stance. Neglected to show his anti-immigration fervor when talking about other issues. Memo to a single-issue candidate: TALK ABOUT YOUR SINGLE ISSUE EVERY CHANCE YOU GET."
Here in the all-important first presidential caucus state of Iowa, the Rocky Mountain News asked some neutral observers to weigh in with their takes on how the debate would be interpreted here -- particularly for Colorado's entrant, Tancredo.
From Bruce Gronbeck, director of the Center for Media Studies and Political Culture at the University of Iowa:
"Thanks to the Hardball style of moderator Chris Matthews, the GOP's
first candidate debate turned into a track meet. If you couldn't
sprint through instant, one-word or one-sentence answers, or
justifications for why you disagreed with the President or each other
or Hilary Clinton, you were left in the dust of the best sprinters... Tom Tancredo's best
moments came when he could finally talk about border issues and,
interestingly, in his last response, where he was asked to
differentiate his policies from those of President Bush. On those
occasions, he was smooth, clear, and confident. On too many other
questions, he came off as hesitant, starting and stopping, talking in
half-sentences. He didn't seem ready for questions about Israel-U.S.
policies toward Iran or the need to increase organ donations for
transplants. He argued firmly against the idea that Republicans
should stake out some centrist positions by saying that Ronald Reagan
didn't have to do that a quarter century ago--hardly a way to expand
his appeal. All in all, Rep. Tancredo probably won't see his public
recognition and approval ratings move up after his performance in this
debate. He's going to have to sculpt a much clearer vision of what
he'd be like as president if he wants to stay in this race."
From Peverill Squire, political science professor at the University of Iowa, :
"I think tonight was not a good night for Tancredo. He was lost among the mass of candidates on stage. More importantly, he was not the only voice taking a tough stand on immigration, losing an opportunity to differentiate himself from the others. But he did have one moment where he should be credited for giving an honest answer while his competitors opted for the easy response: Tancredo was the only candidate to point out that the budget has structural problems that can’t be solved by presidential vetoes."
LATE UPDATE: The snarky "Wonkette" web site even fact-checks one of Tancredo's laugh lines during the debate.
AND THIS JUST IN: Tancredo gets some credit -- and sympathy -- from this independently-minded Iowa observer.
Video from the TeamTancredo web site.