Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said on Saturday that the GOP stands behind Rep. Tom Tancredo, who has made headlines worldwide lately after his comments on a Florida radio show that the U.S. might want to consider bombing Muslim holy sites as part of the war against terrorists. According to the Rocky Mountain News:

Some Republicans might distance themselves from controversial Congressman Tom Tancredo, but not the chairman of the party itself.

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, on Friday said the party backs Tancredo, a Littleton Republican who has upset Hispanic and Muslim groups with various statements on immigration and terrorism.

“The fact is, we’re a big-tent party. I’m proud that we have debate in our party,” Mehlman said. “I think debating (how) to protect our borders and protect our national security is a good thing.”

Mehlman was in Colorado Springs to rally the troops and raise money for the party, which suffered stunning losses in Colorado in 2004.

Mehlman’s public support of Tancredo was tepid at best, but it is still a notable statement for a Republican whom some observers think could be risking a primary opponent in 2006 if he keeps drawing negative attention to the party. Eyes have rolled for years when Tancredo talks about immigration reform by saying that all illegal immigrants should be deported immediately — a “policy” which would obviously be completely impractical to implement — and his opposition to immigration reform as set forth by the White House has long made him a foe of the Bush administration (Karl Rove, President Bush’s top advisor, has told Tancredo “never to darken the door” of the White House again).

But Tancredo took his outspoken nature a step further with his “bomb Mecca” comments, which drew widespread criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. Tancredo’s comments don’t help the White House to deflect critics abroad who say that the U.S. is waging a battle against Islam, and the more Tancredo pushes, the more he risks the White House finally deciding that he is too much trouble to deal with. Mehlman’s comments of support were therefore somewhat surprising, because Tancredo certainly isn’t making life easier for the GOP.

On the other hand, Mehlman may have just been spouting talking points that don’t have much meaning. Take a look at what he said about Democrats’ victories in Colorado in 2004:

Mehlman blamed Democratic soft money for the victories, and said Colorado Republicans are working hard for next year, in part reaching out to more Hispanics and blacks.

“I think having a compassionate conservative philosophy allows us to do that,” he said.

State Sen. Peter Groff, a Denver Democrat who is black, said he’d like to know what compassionate conservative policies Republicans are talking about.

It really doesn’t make much sense to praise Tom Tancredo and then talk about compassionate conservatism, because even a casual observer would have to admit that those two go together about as well as the Colorado Rockies and a winning record. Even if you like Tancredo, you certainly can’t call him a compassionate conservative, so Mehlman’s words of support could be equally pointless.