There's a showdown in the Colorado Republican gubernatorial primary coming Monday at high noon.
As if there were not enough turmoil in the scandal-plagued contest, former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo has issued an ultimatum to the two candidates: Drop out of the race, or I'm coming after you.
It's actually a little more complicated than that. Mr. Tancredo has vowed to enter the governor's race as the candidate from the American Constitution Party at noon Monday unless the two Republican primary hopefuls, Scott McInnis and Dan Maes, agree to his conditions.
Those conditions are: They must commit to withdrawing from the race the day after the Aug. 10 primary if polls show the winner trailing likely Democratic nominee John W. Hickenlooper.
Republicans immediately denounced Mr. Tancredo, calling on him to rescind his threat and predicting his candidacy would spell disaster for the party's chances in November. But the way Mr. Tancredo sees it, he's doing the Colorado Republican Party a favor.
He says the Republicans have no chance of winning the race with Mr. McInnis, who's embroiled in a plagiarism scandal, or Mr. Maes, an unknown who was recently fined for campaign-spending violations.
"We're at the point where Scott is not a viable option," said Mr. Tancredo in an interview Sunday. "So I have a responsibility to the conservatives in this state to do what I can to make sure John Hickenlooper isn't elected."
If Mr. McInnis withdraws his candidacy after the primary, the state Republican Party can form a vacancy committee to select a replacement candidate, which, Mr. Tancredo acknowledges, "won't be me."
So far, however, Mr. McInnis has shown no inclination to drop out for the good of the party, vowing that he's "in it to win it" and blaming the plagiarism uproar on the media and his political enemies.
So Mr. Tancredo has decided to give him a push — or a shove. Mr. Tancredo is a polarizing figure nationally, but he remains one of the most popular Republicans in Colorado. A SurveyUSA poll taken after the plagiarism scandal broke two weeks ago showed him leading all potential Republican gubernatorial candidates.
A half-dozen county party leaders have called on Mr. Tancredo to back down from his threat. Dave Kerber, chairman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party, sent out an e-mail Saturday asking Republicans to tell Mr. Tancredo to "stand down from his destructive path."
"What Tom Tancredo is doing now and will continue to do if he enters the race as a third-party candidate is to focus the attention on himself and his issues," said Mr. Kerber.
State Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams called Mr. Tancredo's candidacy "nothing more than a big ego trip."
"He would be a liability for every Republican in this race," Mr. Wadhams said. "He can't restrain himself from making statements like 'bombing Mecca' and 'impeaching Obama.' The primary needs to play itself out, and then we'll see what happens after the primary."
Mr. Tancredo denied that he's entering the race to raise his own profile, saying that he's "done everything Republicans have asked me to do" to help the McInnis campaign. Just two weeks ago, he said, he appeared at a McInnis rally in an effort to rally campaign workers.
"It's not that I want Tom Tancredo to be governor. I'm not doing this because of my own ambitions or because of some ego trip, as some people have said," said Mr. Tancredo. "I will be one of the happiest campers in the world tomorrow if the candidates would say, 'If on Aug. 11, I'm not even with or ahead of John Hickenlooper, I will withdraw and let the Republicans pick a new nominee.'"
That doesn't seem likely. Both candidates have said they intend to stay in the race.
If noon arrives Monday without a capitulation by the McInnis or Maes campaigns, Mr. Tancredo said he'll issue a statement rather than hold a press conference announcing his third-party candidacy.
"At that point, I've got to change parties, I've got to register, I've got to meet with the American Constitution Party. There's all this stuff I've got to do," he said.
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