Tom Tancredo may be a third-party candidate for Colorado governor, but he's no longer coming in third.
Mr. Tancredo surged ahead of GOP candidate Dan Maes in a Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday, capturing 25 percent of the vote to 21 percent for Mr. Maes. Both trail John Hickenlooper, a Democrat with 46 percent support in the survey of 750 likely Colorado voters.
Mr. Tancredo, a former congressman and outspoken critic of illegal immigration, received more good news Tuesday when a state judge ruled that he may remain on the November ballot as a candidate from the American Constitution Party. Two Republican voters had filed a lawsuit saying he violated state election law because he was a member of the GOP until July.
Colorado law states that third-party candidates must be registered with the party by the first business day of January in the year they plan to run. But the law also says that political parties may set their own standards for selecting candidates.
"Huge victory today," Mr. Tancredo said. "I will be on the ballot in November."
Two weeks ago, Mr. Maes held 24 percent of the vote in the same poll, with just 14 percent of voters for Mr. Tancredo. Since then, however, Mr. Maes has been dogged by accusations that he exaggerated his credentials when he said he was an undercover agent on a Kansas police force.
"In those two weeks since Labor Day, Maes has been accused of padding his resume, which is always a negative with voters," pollster Floyd Ciruli said. "Meanwhile, you have Tancredo picking up the endorsements of a number of Republicans."
The Tancredo campaign released last week a list of Colorado Republicans who have decided to cross party lines and support his candidacy. The list includes former Rep. Bob Beauprez and 16 current or former state legislators. Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, also has endorsed Mr. Tancredo.
Maes spokesman Nate Strauch chalked up Mr. Tancredo's jump in the polls to a spate of negative news stories.
"There's no candidate in the world who could have undergone the onslaught Dan Maes has been under and not have it have an effect on the polls," Mr. Strauch said. "We expect this is the nadir. The Denver Post has spent all its bullets."
He predicted that Mr. Maes' numbers would rise in the next round of polls. "Usually third-party candidates fall off as the two majority party candidates pull away as the election draws nearer," Mr. Strauch said.
Unlike most third-party candidates, however, Mr. Tancredo has amassed a larger war chest than his Republican foe, and he's already invested some of it in an ad attacking Mr. Maes. The television spot, released Tuesday, features Republican activist Freda Poundstone, who said she lent Mr. Maes $300 to pay his mortgage earlier this year but that he used it as a campaign donation.
"Dan Maes not only conned me out of my money, he lied to me about his background, and he deceived my friends and myself about his conservative principles," Mrs. Poundstone says in the ad. "I've had so many people call me and ask: What kind of man would do that to an 83-year-old lady?
"I don't want that to happen to the voters of this state," she concludes.
The Maes campaign also neglected to report the $300 contribution. Mr. Strauch said the failure to report was a mistake made by the campaign's previous treasurer, and that the campaign has refunded Mrs. Poundstone's donation.
As for the ad, "It's extremely unfortunate that Tom feels the need to attack a fellow conservative instead of focusing on the tax-and-spend liberal in the race," said Mr. Strauch.
He's referring to Mr. Hickenlooper, the front-runner whose candidacy has taken a back seat to the soap opera playing out on the Republican side of the race.
"I saw someone write that Tancredo is now the leading loser, because he may be ahead of Maes but they're both losing to Hickenlooper," said Mr. Ciruli. "They're basically dividing the Republican base."
Mr. Tancredo and Republicans repeatedly called on Mr. Maes to drop out of the race after he won the primary against the embattled former Rep. Scott McInnis, whose campaign foundered in the wake of plagiarism charges.
When Mr. Maes refused, Mr. Tancredo entered the race anyway, saying that the Republican candidate was "no longer viable."
A newcomer to politics, Mr. Maes tripped up early with campaign reimbursement violations that cost him $17,500 in fines.
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