DENVER Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, whose forceful opposition to illegal immigration vaulted him to national prominence, plans to announce he is abandoning his long-shot bid for the presidency, a person close to Tancredo said Wednesday.
The five-term Colorado congressman planned to make the announcement at a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for Tancredo or his campaign.
Tancredo's campaign would only say he planned a "major announcement" Thursday.
Tancredo has consistently polled at the back of the nine-person GOP field. He has based his campaign on opposition to illegal immigration, a top issue in many areas of the country. He has run television ads that link lax border security to terrorist attacks, rape and other crimes.
Tancredo announced in October that he would not seek a sixth term in Congress, but hinted he would consider running for the Senate after his presidential bid.
Colorado will have an open Senate seat next year when Republican Wayne Allard retires.
Fears about illegal immigration boosted Tancredo's profile, but it didn't translate into support as reflected by his low standing in national and state polls and his limited fundraising. In part, candidates such as Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani usurped Tancredo's hardline stance on the issue, prompting the congressman to quip at one debate that "all I've heard is people trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo."
Tancredo drew criticism for a controversial campaign ad that showed a man in a hooded sweat shirt with a backpack in a crowded mall. The screen goes dark at the sound of an explosion, and then the ad shows clips of the aftermath of terrorist acts in Europe, including a picture of a bloodied child.
"There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs," a narrator says. "Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil, jihadists who froth with hate, here to do as they have in London, Spain, Russia. The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill."
"I approve this message because someone needs to say it," Tancredo says at the beginning of the ad.
Tancredo took credit in July for some of the political woes that have befallen Sen. John McCain, once the front-runner in the GOP race. Tancredo has hammered McCain in Iowa and other states for supporting a failed immigration bill in Congress that would have legalized millions of immigrants now in the country.
The grandson of an Italian immigrant, Tancredo says he became angry about illegal immigration because of bilingual education requirements in schools. He says those requirements turned out students who were illiterate in two languages.
Tancredo wants the military to patrol U.S. borders and employers to be required to prove a need for short-term foreign workers.
Never shy about stirring controversy, Tancredo told a radio talk-show host that "you could take out" Islamic holy sites should terrorists ever launch a nuclear attack against the United States.
When asked if he meant bombing holy sites like Mecca, Tancredo answered: "Yeah" and said he was "just throwing out some ideas."