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Tancredo Yet to Effectively Leverage Immigration Issue In Iowa

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Colorado Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo boasts traditional conservative credentials, but has made a name for himself in the U.S. House during the past decade primarily on a single issue: as a staunch advocate for border security and putting an end to illegal immigration – particularly along the southern border. Tancredo has also made immigration and national security the centerpiece for his presidential campaign.

Although a significant portion of the Iowa electorate agrees with the Tancredo position on immigration, he has yet to gain any ground in early polls measuring support of likely Republican caucus voters in the Hawkeye State. In the latest KCCI-TV / Research 2000 poll, Tancredo is in a four-way tie for sixth place, at 2 percent.

Tancredo has stated his support for deportation of illegal aliens – and many Iowans would support this measure. In a January 2007 Iowa Poll (Des Moines Register), 40 percent of Iowans preferred to deport illegal aliens, while 52 percent preferred to find a way for them to stay legally if they had jobs. A Rasmussen poll in April 2006 similarly found 39 percent of Iowans advocating the forcible deportation of illegal aliens, with 39 percent opposed to that measure.

Illegal immigration is also one of the most important problems in the eyes of Iowans. When asked whether their outlook on a dozen national issues was worrisome or optimistic, immigration ranked the third most worrisome, at 62 percent – behind only the war in Iraq (70 percent) and Social Security (67 percent). Iowans were more pessimistic about immigration policy than health care, foreign relations, moral values, the cost and availability of fuel, security from terrorism, the environment, education, the economy, and agricultural policy.

Tancredo’s challenge is to tap into these concerns among Iowans, and demonstrate to them he is the candidate best suited and committed to address the illegal immigration problem. Most Iowans still have not formed an opinion about Tancredo – likely a sign most have not heard of him or seen him speak. A mid-May 2007 Iowa Poll found 9 percent of all Iowans (Republicans, Democrats, and independents) had a favorable opinion of Tancredo, 27 percent had an unfavorable opinion, and 64 percent had not formed an opinion at all. Only Chicago businessman Ron Cox (77 percent, thus far not invited to participate in the GOP debates), California Congressman Duncan Hunter (75%), and Texas Congressman Ron Paul (73%) had a higher number of Iowans who had not yet formed an opinion of the candidate.

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