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Breaking News UPDATE: Tancredo quits GOP race

December 19, 2007 | 11:35 am

(UPDATE: Quoting a person close to Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, the Associated Press reported late this afternoon that the Colorado representative would announce his withdrawal from the Republican race at an Iowa news conference Thursday.

Tancredo based his long-shot candidacy on his opposition to illegal immigration. He ran hard-hitting ads linking lax border security to terrorist attacks and other crime. But the six-term representative has consistently polled at the back of the Republican pack. He has announced his retirement from the House but hinted at a run for Colorado's open Senate seat next year.

Tancredo's departure reduces the GOP field to seven candidates.)

We had presumed that under-financed and infrequently written-about Tancredo would hang around the Republican presidential race, taking advantage of debate invitations to press his one-note candidacy. But the House member from Colorado may have a surprise for us.

His campaign has announced that he's got a "major announcement" to make Thursday in Des Moines (noon, PST) and it's hard to imagine that he would be cheeky enough to apply that label to anything other than officially ending his White House bid (in practical terms, it never really began).

Tancredo's "major announcement" will coincide with his 62nd birthday, so maybe he's detailing some party plans. If, instead, he's folding his presidential tent, he will no doubt decamp proudly, proclaiming that his relentless focus on what he asserts are the negative effects of immigration -- both illegal and legal -- dramatically shaped the dialogue among other GOP candidates.

We've gotten a taste of Tancredo's pride in his efforts already. During the YouTube-sponsored debate in late November, he beamed as he noted that several of the other candidates had sought to "out-Tancredo Tancredo" on the immigration issue.

He continued: "It is great.  I am so happy to hear it.  It is a wonderful thing.  It's a good message, yes. ..."

He will also be remembered for one of the season's most hard-edged ads (which, given his lack of money, was on the air only briefly).

One note of caution: We've been fooled before by the "major announcement" gambit.

Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel used it to lure a big crowd of reporters to Omaha early in the year, only to say that he was continuing to mull his future plans (ultimately, he not only nixed a much-rumored presidential campaign, but decided to give up politics altogether).

Back in June, Tommy Thompson (remember him?) used the "major announcement" characterization to merely assure curious reporters that he was still in the presidential race (when he dropped out two months later, he spared us the "major announcement" buildup).

-- Don Frederick