Why is Tancredo at 1 percent?

There are those who argue that the immigration debate is the most important debate in American politics today. If that is the case, why is Tom Tancredo at 1 percent in the GOP primary fight? So let's say he's crazy and that folks in the GOP know he isn't going to win. But if this issue is that important, and his leadership on it has been so clear, why isn't he getting any more traction? 5 or 10 percent perhaps?

In the new USA/Gallup Poll out today, the new order for the GOP nationally is Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain. These three candidates are the most liberal of the GOP primary candidates on immigration. All have come out in their careers for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which allows the 11-12 million undocumented to stay in the country. The only two candidates who gained ground in this poll are the ones who have been fighting for a more reasonable immigration approach in the most recent debates, Huckabee and McCain. And in the poll Tancredo stays where he has been for months - at 1 percent.

I am not arguing here that immigration is an easy issue. But I think the overwhelming evidence in the last several elections and in all the polling data indicate that those who believe it has the capacity to be the defining issue in American politics are simply overstating their case. If immigration isn't driving the GOP Presidential primary - which it clearly isn't - I don't know how it is going to drive the Presidential race or Congressional elections next year.

It is my belief that the massive investment the GOP has made in the immigration issue is actually a sign of weakness, a sign of how much the rest of their agenda has collapsed. They have little they can say on their time in power, on what they've done to help the struggling middle class, on the success of their foreign policy, how they've brought health insurance to more people. So what they have settled on is immigration, a 2nd tier but important issue, one where their position may work to fire up some of their base but simply does not work with the broader electorate looking for smart and sensible solutions and has managed to alienate the fastest growing part of the American electorate, Hispanics.

For more on the how the issue of immigration has not performed for the GOP check out my recent essay Immigration, once again, despite huge GOP investment, does not perform for the GOP.

Update: Mr One Percent has a new anti-immigrant ad up, which you can find at www.teamtancredo.com. It closes by saying: "Deport those who don't belong. Make sure they never come back."