DAVENPORT, Iowa—Rep. Tom Tancredo started barnstorming through eastern Iowa on Thursday, talking immigration to religious conservatives and stepping up his flirtation with the 2008 presidential race.
Tancredo started speculation about his role in the 2008 race earlier this year, when he made a brief stop in the early presidential primary state of New Hampshire.
But the Iowa trip represents a serious escalation, since he is spreading his message to a conservative constituency that rarely focuses on immigration but is considered crucial for anyone seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
Bay Buchanan, a veteran political operative, said that one way or another, “We will have somebody who is committed to the (immigration) issue” on the presidential ballot in 2008.
“There’ll be either a groundswell that will make Tom feel this is a possibility . . . or it could be a big name like (Virginia Senator) George Allen (who) becomes a champion on this issue,” Bay Buchanan said before the trip.
So far, though, she does not think Allen or any other likely contender has shown a serious commitment to make fighting illegal immigration a priority. “I am always afraid of campaign converts,” she said.
At a reception, Tancredo stood in front of about 50 Christian Coalition guests and spoke about illegal immigration challenging what it means to be an American. He said that’s because, unlike past immigrants like his Italian-born grandfather, many illegal immigrants do not sever political and spiritual ties to their home countries and strive to become Americans.
“It is the issue of trying to determine who we are,” Tancredo said. “Knowing who we are as Americans is becoming harder and harder.”