DENVER, Colorado " Remember the hot immigration debate?
The topic won't be headlining either presidential convention this year " and the border security issue barely drew a crowd Monday to a daylong anti-illegal immigration rally in Denver aimed at keeping immigration before politicians this fall.
A rally by the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps featuring Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr drew just a few dozen people.
Held at a Denver park a few miles away from the Democratic National Convention, the rally was more of a picnic, where even some counter-protesters shouting obscenities at the anti-illegal immigration activists failed to stir much emotion.
The anti-illegal immigration activists concede that the topic has fallen off the political radar this summer amid economic concerns and energy worries. They contend Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are afraid to bring up the subject because they're both seeking Hispanic votes.
"They're trying to walk a fine line so they can not turn off the middle class vote but still get the Hispanic vote," said Ralph Kelly, 66, of Colorado Springs.
But like others chewing turkey sandwiches and sitting in folding chairs at the almost-empty rally, Kelly seemed sanguine about the lack of interest in immigration. The retired electronic assembly worker said he understands why people are more worried about the economy.
"If I was still working and faced with losing my job, I'd be more worried about it too," he said.
Most of the attendees were graying, and they expressed little hope they'd influence Democrats gathering just across town.
Even Colorado Rep. Tom \, a Republican who launched a short-lived presidential bid earlier this year largely based on his call for an immigration overhaul, showed up late to the rally wearing a golf shirt and loafers and started his remarks by quipping, "I'm like yesterday's news."
Tancredo added, though, that the public interest in immigration issues has been understated by the media and even his own political party.
"I don't care how many times people tell me this issue is no longer important, that voters don't care about it anymore, it's still out there," Tancredo said.
Maybe so, but many of the anti-illegal immigration activists seemed unconvinced the topic would influence this fall's campaigns.
After independent presidential candidate Alan Keyes addressed the group, he was surrounded by supporters " who asked about abortion.
Minutemen organizers insisted the rally was a success, and that the immigration debate hasn't faded. They said more people would have come to the rally, but the media, Republicans and Democrats are in collusion to keep the topic out of the public eye.
They hoped for a better turnout next week in Minneapolis, where another Minuteman rally is planned for the Republican National Convention.
"This is a national movement," said Minuteman President Chris Simcox, who said membership was either holding steady or increasing across the country. "This is just the beginning."