DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a strong supporter of tougher immigration laws, dropped his long-shot Republican presidential bid on Thursday and endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Tancredo, who entered the race to raise awareness of the immigration issue, languished at the bottom of a big Republican presidential field most of the year but said he had accomplished his task.
Most of the Republican field has supported a tough crackdown on illegal immigrants and stricter border security, and polls put illegal immigration near the top of the agenda for Republican voters.
“I am happy to say, I am ecstatic to say, we have made remarkable progress,” Tancredo said at a Des Moines news conference.
Iowa opens on January 3 the state-by-state battle to choose Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in the November 2008 election, but polls showed Tancredo running in the low single digits in support in the state.
He said Romney, who he met with before making his announcement, had a solid record on immigration and praised him as “the best hope for our cause.”
“He will secure our borders,” he said. “He’ll require those who are presently here illegally to return home. He also has, by the way, a solid record that matches his rhetoric.”
He said staying in the race might benefit candidates who he described as “abysmal” on immigration, pointing to the rise of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee has shot up in the polls despite criticism from some Republicans for taking too soft a stance on illegal immigrants.
“We have come too far,” Tancredo said. “The stakes are way too high for me to allow that to happen.”
(Writing by John Whitesides; editing by David Wiessler)
To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/