Terrible Tom enters the governor’s race

Scott McInnis won’t withdraw from the race for governor. Dan Maes won’t withdraw. Tom Tancredo won’t wait. And the head of the Republican Party said it’s now very likely the GOP won’t win the gubernatorial race come November.

Welcome to primary election season 2010, where the program seems to change daily, even though the primary ballots were mailed more than a week ago.

On Monday, Tancredo — a longtime Republican and former GOP congressman from Littleton — announced plans to run for Colorado governor as a member of the American Constitution Party. The announcement came after it became clear neither McInnis nor Maes would abide by Tancredo’s ultimatum from last week that they both commit to withdrawing from the race after the Aug. 10 primary, regardless of which man wins the primary.

Dick Wadhams, head of the Colorado Republican Party, said Tancredo’s candidacy will likely split the conservative vote in November, all but ensuring that Democrat John Hickenlooper is the state’s next governor.

Wadhams may be right. In fact, even before Tancredo decided to enter the race as a third-party candidate, Republican futures weren’t trading high in the governor’s race. McInnis’ stock fell when it was revealed he committed plagiarism, then his research assistant said McInnis lied about that incident. There are questions about his arrangement with the Hasan Family Foundation, which paid him $300,000 for a handful of research papers on water.

Maes has his own problems. This month he agreed to pay fines for campaign-finance violations. Then, one of his primary campaign stumping points — that he was a successful businessman who could help turn around state government — was called into question when it was reported that his credit reporting business struggled economically for most of the years he operated it.

Neither McInnis nor Maes is now expected to attract the kind of campaign money needed to take on the well-funded Hickenlooper.

In fact, the best shot the Republicans had for success in the governor’s race was if the winner of the primary were to withdraw after Aug. 10, and party leaders could appoint a replacement candidate with a clean record and solid conservative credentials. We believe Josh Penry would be such a candidate.

But Tancredo’s announcement significantly reduces the likelihood of Penry or any credible Republican taking up that mantle.

Tancredo is a polarizing figure who has made such outrageous statements as the United States should bomb Mecca in response to attacks from Islamic fanatics, and that President Barack Obama is the greatest danger to the future of the United States right now.

But he also has a very loyal following, particularly on immigration issues. And any votes he receives for his third-party candidacy will almost certainly come from the Republican side of the ledger. His candidacy won’t cut into votes going to Hickenlooper.

Terrible Tom doesn’t have much chance of becoming Colorado’s next governor. But, by adding to the number of candidates in the race this fall, he has actually reduced the possibility that Colorado voters will have a real choice in the race for governor.


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