Tancredo Missing But Well Accounted For

No sooner had the Southern Republican Leadership Conference ended March 12, than I was flooded with e-mails and calls from irate subscribers: Why, they wanted to know, wasn’t Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Colo.), by far the most visible opponent of illegal immigration in Congress, included in the straw ballot vote for President or at least invited to speak? Tancredo, who is not popular with the Bush White House, has been increasingly mentioned as a potential presidential candidate or, at the very least, a favorite son from Colorado. The lawmaker himself has done nothing to dissuade supporters who want to enter his name in the ’08 presidential

So why were George Allen and Mitt Romney there and not Tom Tancredo?

"I just don’t go to parties that it turns out [I’m] not invited to," Tancredo told me at the National Press Club March 16. "I have lots of friends who wished I had been there." The Centennial State lawmaker also noted, of the speakers at the Memphis event, that "every single one talked about illegal immigration."

"Politics" correspondent Patrick Casey contacted the Tennessee Republican Party, which organized the SRLC, about why Tancredo was not invited. Spokesman Kevin Devaney replied that the state party "did not feel Congressman Tancredo met the criteria they based their selections on" — although he quickly added that they "appreciate what Congressman Tancredo is doing and especially respect his leadership on immigration."

The Tennessee GOP, he told Casey, "wanted to concentrate on the putative front-runners for the ’08 presidential election [and] leaders of Congress." He also insisted that Tancredo "did not call and had no one contact them about the SRLC." Pressed by Casey as to whether that would have made a difference, the spokesman finally said "No" and explained that the party concluded Tancredo did "not have the political stature to deserve a spot on their straw ballot and does not merit special preference either — not being from the South."

However, two fellow Westerners — Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Bill Owens of Tancredo’s own Colorado — were also asked to address the gathering. All told, 68 Republican politicians were invited to Memphis.