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The already-epic battle between Colorado Republican party chair Dick Wadhams and former Republican Congressman, now American Constitution Party candidate for governor Tom Tancredo is going to get even uglier. Tancredo's run as the only conservative alternative to Republican Dan Maes could dramatically weaken the Republican party in the next two election cycles.

Buoyed by new polling and endorsements, would-be governor Tom Tancredo continues to cast himself as the lone, conservative answer to Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper.

But a big win for Tancredo — or even drawing much closer — could spell a big loss for both the GOP and his adopted third party, the American Constitution Party, for the next four years.

If Republican nominee Dan Maes receives less than 10 percent of the vote in November, the GOP becomes a minor party and subject to rules that could cut in half the amount its candidates can collect in campaign contributions.

The problem for the American Constitution Party should Tancredo keep Maes below 10 percent is that they become a major party, and have to shell out money they don't have to run caucuses and print ballots. A memo from Dave Kerber, the chairman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party, spells out the havoc Tancredo could wreak for Republicans.

“First the determination of whether the Republicans would be a minor party is if the a party’s candidate for Governor receives less than 10% of the vote. Should Dan Maes receive less than 10% of the vote, all Republican candidates for the next two election cycles 2012 and 2014 will have minor party status.”

“The effect of the designation of minor party status for the 2012 election would be that our candidate for president will not be in the top two lines which will be reserved for the Democrat and American Constitution Party candidates. We will be left to compete for ballot position with the Greens, Socialists, American Communist Party, Libertarians. Prohibitionists etc.

“Our state house and senate candidates will similarly be relegated to bottom positions. In 2014, when we have our US Senate, Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer etc races, again, we will be at the bottom of the ballot fighting the libertarians etc for ballot placement. As we all know, being at the top or toward the top can mean several percentage points in the vote, enough in a close race to secure victory.”

Republican candidates for state positions would also be hampered in fundraising. Any minor party candidate who doesn't face opposition in a primary isn't included in the primary election ballot and appears only on the general election ballot, whereas the major party candidates always appear on the primary ballot, whether or not they are opposed. Only appearing the general election ballot would preclude them from raising money for their primary elections. Thus, a state House candidate in a major party can accept $400 from an individual, $200 in the primary and $200 in the general. An unopposed Republican would have a $200 individual limit.

Tancredo is inching up in the polls at Maes's expense. A SUSA poll from this week has Tancredo at 34 to Maes's 15, with Dem Hickenlooper still ahead by double digits at 46. A Rasmussen poll (grain of salt) has Hickenlooper 43, Tancredo 35 (a more than 20-point gain in two months) and Maes 16. His gains are almost entirely from Republicans jumping ship and the wackier fringe of the unaffiliated voters. Tancredo is both egotistical enough and crazy enough to take the Republican party down with him. Could this race get any more interesting?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 03:00 PM PDT.

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