Rep. Tom Tancredo waded deeper into the 2008 presidential race Tuesday, when he announced he was forming an exploratory campaign committee.

“I’m going to do so because I believe there is a void in the present panoply of people seeking that office,” Tancredo said during a morning appearance on the FoxNews program “Fox and Friends.”

Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa first confirmed the exploratory bid late Monday to the Rocky Mountain News.

Tancredo, R-Littleton, made the decision after wrapping up his latest barnstorming trip this weekend to Iowa, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

Early polls show Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leading a crowded Republican field there, but GOP activists convinced Tancredo that there’s room for a staunch conservative like him, Espinosa said.

“The repeated message from everyone is there’s still a void out there,” Espinosa said. “There’s no candidate out there who fits the bill. They don’t believe there’s a true conservative in the race yet.

“That’s the message he’s getting.”

Tancredo has made his name as one of the most outspoken opponents of illegal immigration, and he has become one of the most polarizing figures in the country, revered by some and branded a xenophobe or racist by his critics.

He has toyed with the idea of running for president for the past two years, mostly as a way to advance his immigration cause and to campaign against what he calls a “cult of multiculturalism.”

In the past, he had admitted it would be “delusional” to think he could win the White House but hinted that his running could keep pressure on other candidates not to abandon conservative principles.

Forming the exploratory committee allows Tancredo to step up fundraising, and he has launched a new web site,

Tancredo portrayed his campaign as “the common sense express,” saying he’ll take on issues like energy policy and others that go beyond the immigration cause that made him famous.

He joked that he wanted people to say, “Yeah, right on, darn right. That guy’s darn right.”

Still, Espinosa stressed that it’s only an exploratory bid. Because Tancredo won’t decide officially whether to launch a candidacy for many months, it would be premature for any would-be replacements to begin jockeying for his Congressional District seat, Espinosa said.

“We’ve gone from testing the waters to wading in the waters,” Espinosa said.

Whether Tancredo follows through “is a decision he will have to come to probably closer to the summer,” the spokesman said.