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There’s No Upside to Sounding Crazy

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Representative Tom Tancredo (CO-6, Littleton) has long had a habit of saying outlandish things, and it usually doesn’t cost him politically because he is a Republican in a relatively safe Republican district. He can say that the U.S. should “bomb Mecca” and not be at risk of losing his congressional seat because he sits in a district where voters, by and large, just put an ‘X’ next to whoever the Republican is on the ballot.

But Tancredo is talking about running for the U.S. Senate in 2008 (for Sen. Wayne Allard’s seat), and to have any real chance at winning he needs to tone down some of the bizarre rhetoric. Tancredo took heat yesterday for calling Miami a third-world country, and while it certainly fits in with his anti-immigration obsession, it only brought him negative press. There’s certainly something to be said for the old idea that any publicity is good publicity, but being infamous and being famous aren’t the same thing.

Even more damaging, however, was a recent comment where he suggested that there is a real threat of the United States, Canada and Mexico joining together to form one big supercountry. This type of comment is more dangerous for Tancredo because it doesn’t make him sound unlikable – it makes him sound crazy. You can deal with being labeled unlikable, but it’s hard to get over being labeled a loony. There are probably a lot of people who agree with the idea that Miami is like a third-world country, whether they would admit it or not. But you’re not going to find many folks who are honestly concerned that the U.S., Canada and Mexico will join forces to create one big country. In fact, that suggestion is so absurd that the idea hadn’t even occurred to me. I’d never before heard anyone else bring it up. Not once.

Tancredo has probably gotten into the habit of saying outlandish things in order to generate publicity, but if he is serious about a run for the U.S. Senate, he needs to put a lid on the crazy. It’s not as unrealistic as you might think that Tancredo could be competitive in a U.S. Senate race, because there is a better than decent chance that he could win a Republican primary. If he wins a primary, then national Republicans will be compelled to help him out if only to prevent a Democrat from winning that seat. But the crazier he sounds, the more other Republicans will say to themselves, “I agree with him on immigration, and he is a conservative candidate, but I’m afraid he might be a sandwich short of a picnic.” Tancredo might just talk himself into a new category – from unlikable to unelectable.

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