The Corner

Walker Settles on Immigration Message

After a few weeks of flailing about on the immigration issue, Scott Walker appears to have settled on a position. 

“President Obama’s lack of leadership has completely changed how our immigration system now needs to be approached and Governor Walker has seen his fellow governors have to deal with the collateral damage of Obama’s decisions and lack of leadership,” Walker spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told Talking Points Memo on Friday. 

According to Kukowski, Walker believes that “Obama’s executive action should be repealed” and that “we need absolute security at our borders and then we can address fixing our legal immigration system and deal with those here illegally but amnesty is not the answer.” 

That’s still relatively vague and it gives Walker plenty of wiggle room on what exactly he’d like to do with the millions of illegal immigrants present in the country, but it does acknowledge the possibility that the governor’s views have changed. That possibility has dogged Walker since NR’s Andrew Johnson published a piece on a 2002 resolution Walker signed as Milwaukee county executive that called for “comprehensive immigration reform” that would have allowed “undocumented working immigrants to obtain legal residency in the United States.” Five days later came a piece from Politico’s Gabriel DeBeneditti, who unearthed a 2006 resolution signed by County Executive Walker that embraced the McCain-Kennedy immigration reforms backed by the Bush administration. 

At the same time, Walker was telling Fox News’s Bret Baier that he’d never supported a path to citizenship. Baier raised the issue because, in a 2013 editorial board meeting with a local Wisconsin newspaper, the Wausau Daily Herald, Walker had discussed the matter. “Actually, I’m glad you asked about that, because the Wausau newspaper erroneously quoted me on that,” Walker told Baier. “That’s wrong. It’s not what I said.” When the Daily Herald unearthed the video showing that it is what the governor said, Walker was again caught flatfooted. 

So now we have a sense of how Walker will explain his about-face – an about-face that is absolutely necessary if he wants to preserve his current position as a conservative alternative to the establishment front-runner, Jeb Bush. Whether rank-and-file Republicans will buy it is another question, but they are certainly hungry for a viable challenger to the establishment pick. As a result, they may prove forgiving of past ideological indiscretions so long as Walker is toeing the line now. 

And: It’s better explaining the reversal than pretending it doesn’t exist. 

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