Finally ending the speculation over his “major announcement,” Tom Tancredo has dropped out of the Republican presidential race. I’ve been critical of Tancredo’s campaign, but let’s give the man his due. When he entered the race, most of the top-tier GOP candidates appeared to at least be open to the comprehensive approach to immigration reform. Now they all claim to favor enforcement first.
More importantly from Tancredo’s perspective, Romney, Fred Thompson, and, to a lesser extent, Mike Huckabee have all embraced the attrition through enforcement strategy of dealing with illegal immigration (though Tancredo seems to find Romney’s conversion the most persuasive). Given recent polls showing Republican caucus-goers believe immigration is the most important issue, a Tancredo endorsement could help Romney against Huckabee in Iowa.
There’s one other candidate who is impacted by Tancredo’s departure from the race: Ron Paul. Paul will have now have to beat some top-tier candidates in the early contests to remain viable. When the field was larger, Paul could distinguish himself by finishing in the middle of the pack. But Huckabee’s rise into the top tier and the gradual shrinking of the bottom tier has made Paul’s job more difficult. He won’t have Tancredo, Sam Brownback, or Tommy Thompson to finish in front of anymore.
UPDATE: In his withdrawal announcement, Tancredo listed John McCain and Mike Huckabee as two candidates who would be too soft on immigration enforcement. Not surprising, but it may shed light on why he found it important to endorse Romney.