DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
And now to the U.S. presidential race. The Republican field is growing. Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson told ABC this week he's running. He called himself the reliable conservative.
Another dark horse who comes with conservative credentials: Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo is expected to formally announce his candidacy tomorrow. Congressman Tancredo gained national prominence with his fierce opposition to allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens. We caught up with him this morning on the campaign trail in Waterloo, Iowa.
Congressman Tancredo, you're best known for your tough stand on illegal immigration. You've even sparred with the White House on this issue. How will you be convincing voters that you're not just a one-issue candidate?
Representative TOM TANCREDO (Republican, Colorado): Well, I have run into that quite a bit, of course, when people ask me about the issues, and there is that suggestion that I'm a one-trick pony, a one-issue candidate. And I always say, well, you know, at least I have an issue.
And this issue happens to be really quite extraordinary in many ways because it - touches so many facets of American life. And, well, if you talk about education, if you talk about health care, if you talk about prison systems - all of these things are impacted, of course, by massive illegal immigration into the country.
And then there is national fence-related issues in terms of the security of our borders. There is also the issue of the culture itself and whether or not we are being Balkanized.
ELLIOTT: What about the issue that polls show as uppermost on voters' minds: Iraq? I understand you don't support the president's troop surge; do you support a timeline for withdrawal?
Rep. TANCREDO: No. What happened is the president actually stated something of a similar nature in terms of a timeline. He said, by November, Iraq will be under control of the Iraqis. That was the benchmark he set. I hope that the pacification of Iraq is successful, that a government is able to take over by that time. I believe that that is exactly what should happen for us to be able to be successful in the bigger war that we are in, frankly, against radical Islam. I think that the present policy, our present configuration there, is wrong.
ELLIOTT: What would you do?
Rep. TANCREDO: Well, I would - the policy that I suggest or that I put forward is one that calls disengagement without withdrawal. We need to disengage; we cannot leave the country, however. We can't…
ELLIOTT: How do you disengage without leaving the country? I don't understand.
Rep. TANCREDO: You can do that. But in the end, of course, it relies heavily upon the Iraqi government being able to control the country. But we have to be in a position to respond to whatever might happen there that threatens our interests.
ELLIOTT: I'd like to ask you a little bit about - I'm going to call it the Tancrazy, I think that's what Esquire called you one time.
Rep. TANCREDO: Oh yeah.
ELLIOTT: You are known for speaking your mind in a way that some might consider outrageous. You've compared Miami to a third world country. At one point, you suggested the U.S. should bomb Mecca in respond to terrorist attacks. You were even part of a group of Colorado lawmakers earlier in your career who called themselves The Crazies. Do you think that voters will be able to look at you as presidential material?
Rep. TANCREDO: Well, first of all, when you said I called ourselves The Crazies, the - actually the press dubbed as that.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ELLIOTT: Oh, okay.
Rep. TANCREDO: Because we were a group of people, very conservative, and we were trying our best to reduce taxes in that particular case - a crazy idea at the time in Colorado. However, we were successful in a number of ways in doing so, and it didn't seem to hurt my possibilities, that even at the time, I mean, I was reelected three times. I went on to win five elections for Congress in Colorado. People there know me and I think understand exactly what it is I'm trying to accomplish. And, yes, I say some outrageous things. It's probably true. And I say - and I have a controversial figure. But, you know, just saying outrageous things doesn't get you anywhere, and it's certainly not my purpose. My purpose is to say exactly what I feel and what I think about issues, and it's good to have a debate. It's healthy for the country to have debates on these subjects, I think.
ELLIOTT: Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, expected to formally announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination tomorrow. Thank you for talking with us.
Rep. TANCREDO: Thank you very much.
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