Another Walker Flip-Flop On Immigration Amid Crashing Poll Numbers

Scott Walker is flip-flopping on immigration again, while his poll numbers sink like a stone.

Scott Walker Speaking

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spent most of last week trying to figure out what his position on birthright citizenship is:

Scott Walker on Sunday took his third position within seven days on Donald Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship, this time saying he opposes Trump and supports the policy.

The Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential candidate was asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether he backs Trump’s push to end the 14th Amendment’s mandate that all children born in the United States are automatically granted citizenship.

“Well, I said the law is there. And we need to enforce the laws, including those that are in the Constitution,” Walker said, adding that he favors addressing illegal immigration by improving border security and requiring businesses to use a system called E-Verify to check workers’ legal status.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pressed further, asking: “So you’re not seeking to repeal or alter the 14th Amendment?”

“No,” Walker said. “My point is, any discussion that goes beyond securing the border and enforcing the laws are things that should be a red flag to voters out there, who for years have heard lip service from politicians and are understandably angry because those politicians haven’t been committed to following through on those promises.”

It’s a different answer than the one Walker gave Monday at the Iowa State Fair.

Asked by MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt whether birthright citizenship should be ended, he said then: “Yeah, absolutely, going forward.”

Walker cited Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s support for ending the policy — in the early 1990s introduced legislation that would have revoked the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship for U.S.-born children. Reid has since reversed that position.

“Yeah,” he said on Monday at the fair. “To me it’s about enforcing the laws in this country. And I’ve been very clear, I think you enforce the laws, and I think it’s important to send a message that we’re going to enforce the laws, no matter how people come here we’re going to enforce the laws in this country.”

Then, on Friday, Walker offered another stance — telling CNBC’s John Harwood that he won’t weigh in on birthright citizenship.

“I’m not taking a position on it one way or the other,” he said in that interview.

The changing answers come as Walker’s standing in polls — particularly in Iowa, which his campaign regards as crucial to his chances of winning the GOP nomination — has been hurt by the rise of Trump and other outsider candidates, like retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina.

This isn’t the first time that Walker has tried to have both ways on immigration during the course of his campaign for the Republican nomination. Earlier this year, it seemed rather clear that the Wisconsin Governor was flip-flopping on the the issue in an effort to appeal to the party’s hard right base. Previously, when Walker was just becoming a media star among Republicans, he made comments that were quite supportive of an immigration reform package that included some form of “amnesty” for people in the country illegally. More recently, Walker has been telling voters that his view on the issue has changed and he is among a group of 25 Governors who have challenged the deportation relief plan that President Obama had announced in November of last year. In later statements, Walker made comments that made it seem as though he was opposed to legal immigration as well, or at least in favor of restricting it to “protect” American jobs. Walker found himself in some trouble, though, when it was reported shortly after this ‘change of heart’ that the Governor had told a group of donors in a private meeting that he still supported immigration reform even though he could not acknowledge that publicly.

All of this has led to charges from some quarters that Walker is willing to say whatever he needs to in order to get ahead in the race for the Republican nomination, and in the case of immigration that largely means walking a line between the immigration restrictionists on the hard right of the party and the more moderate wing of the party that favors immigration reform and fears the consequences for the GOP at the ballot box if the party further alienates Latino voters.  Because of the fact that Iowa is a make or break state for him, Walker has shown an obvious preference toward pandering to the anti-immigration wing of the party, but the fact that he also needs support of the more “establishment” wing of the party, not to mention the donors that largely tend to come there, means that you’ll sometimes see him pull back from some of the harsher rhetoric you’ll hear from a candidate like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Walker’s response to the birthright citizenship question is simply the latest example of this.

Walker’s apparent strategy of trying to be all things to all people doesn’t seem to be going over well at all. On the national level, where he once seemed about ready to overtake Jeb Bush as the leader of the Republican race, Walker has now slipped to fourth place in the RealClearPolitics Average. He’s suffered a similar fate in New Hampshire, where the combination of the rise of Donald Trump and Walker’s own disappointing performance in this month’s debate have knocked Walker down substantially. Perhaps the biggest blow to Walker, though, has come in Iowa. Thanks largely to the fact that his position as the Governor of a neighboring state has made Walker very well known among Iowa Republicans, Scott Walker was the seemingly prohibitive leader of the race for most of 2015.  In just the past month, though, Walker has fallen like a rock and now stands in third place behind Donald Trump and Ben Caron in the polling average. This chart from RealClearPolitics shows the extent of Walker’s sudden fall:

RCP Iowa

A good part of Walker’s drop in the polls, of course, can be attributed to the rise of Donald Trump, who has had a similar impact on the standings of Jeb Bush, the other candidate who was leading in the polls prior to all of this. In Iowa, though, it’s worth noting that Walker was sailing along fine even as Trump was rising until he hit that moment you can see in the charts where he sinks like a stone. That moment roughly coincides with the first Republican debate on August 6th, in which Walker was widely seen has having had a mediocre performance at best. This is particularly important in Iowa because, without Iowa, Walker’s campaign is most likely effectively dead. It’s not surprising, then, that Walker is trying to appeal to the hard right base in Iowa on an issue like immigration even as he realizes that doing so may hurt him later down the line. However, it seems clear that this strategy of trying to be all things to all people is doomed to fail. In a different age, candidates were able to get away with saying different things to different people because the nature of the media made it unlikely that anyone would even notice it. In today’s digital era, inconsistencies like this quickly become a story all their own, and it’s not one that paints a good portrait of the candidate. Something like this isn’t fatal to Walker’s campaign necessarily, but it doesn’t help ether.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Campaign 2016, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Something like this isn’t fatal to Walker’s campaign necessarily, but it doesn’t help ether.

    It seems pretty obvious to me that Walker is fatal to Walker’s campaign. And to think he actually had me worried at one point in time.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Walker is willing to say whatever he needs to in order to get ahead in the race for the Republican nomination

    Why single out Walker?

  3. Davebo says:

    Anyone who ever believed Scott Walker was a viable candidate for national office had never paid attention to Scott Walker.

    Scott Walker couldn’t get re-elected in Wisconsin right now. Just as Jindal couldn’t win LA, Bush couldn’t win FL and Perry couldn’t win in TX.

    And the reason is obvious. Their appeal comes from them telling voters what they are going to do, and voters eat that shit up.

    But once the voters actually get a taste of the shit, it doesn’t taste so good.

  4. cian says:

    and in the case of immigration that largely means walking a line between the immigration restrictionists on the hard right of the party and the more moderate wing of the party that favors immigration reform and fears the consequences for the GOP at the ballot box if the party further alienates Latino voters.

    I love it. The difference between the hard right and moderate republicans (between Trump and Walker) is that one is happy to declare his racism, while the other would rather not (let’s not frighten the horse before we get in the carriage). That’s some party you have there, Doug.

  5. @cian:

    First of all, there are several parts of the GOP coalition that are strongly in favor of immigration reform. The Chamber of Commerce, business groups, and those that are routinely dismissed as “establishment,” for example, along with many Evangelical groups. As it stands, though, the restrictionists have the loudest voices among the base voters right now.

    Second, it’s not my party.

  6. Davebo says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Doug’s Party

    That crew makes the GOP clown car look respectable!

    But Doug won’t be voting for any of them.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    “Restrictionist?” That’s a nice euphemism for a proposed ethnic cleansing on a scale not seen in this country since the Trail of Tears.

    What utter, false, b.s.. Everyone, from R to D, with the exception of a Libertarian fringe on the right and a handful of radical Lefties not amounting between them to 5% of the population, is in favor of some degree of restriction on immigration.

    What about half the GOP favors is not “restriction,” it is the arrest, dispossession and forcible expulsion of 11 million human beings. The argument within the GOP is between those who favor ethnic cleansing of brown people and those who favor their exploitation.

  8. @Davebo:

    I don’t belong to any party, actually.

  9. James Trout says:

    An advantage of living in a state- or rather Commonwealth- where there is no party registration.

  10. JohnMcC says:

    Passions are running extremely strong in the Repub world. Walker finds himself between the Chamber/Koch constituency and the voters of the ‘base’ and unable to negotiate that divide. The bigger question is ‘what does this portend for the Republican party?’

    More popcorn!

  11. cian says:

    First of all, there are several parts of the GOP coalition that are strongly in favor of immigration reform. The Chamber of Commerce, business groups, and those that are routinely dismissed as “establishment,” for example, along with many Evangelical groups.

    I’d love to think there was some truth to this, but if Trump takes the nomination, each and every one of those groups will fall in line. That, or they just won’t vote. Guaranteed.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    First of all, there are several parts of the GOP coalition that are strongly in favor of immigration reform. The Chamber of Commerce,

    I see this a lot, where “Chamber of Commerce” is listed as somehow having an independent agenda. The “US Chamber of Commerce” should not be confused with your local Chamber. It takes positions according to the highest bidder, end of story. Although this is obvious from it’s behavior, we don’t need to infer it. There have been a number of email leaks that show them doing exactly this.

  13. Davebo says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It’s your story Doug. You can tell it the way you want to.

    Nobody is buying it but whatever helps you sleep.

  14. Davebo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “Restrictionist?” That’s a nice euphemism for a proposed ethnic cleansing on a scale not seen in this country since the Trail of Tears.

    Wow Michael. That’s not just over the top. That’s 10,000 feet beyond the top.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Davebo:

    Wow Michael. That’s not just over the top. That’s 10,000 feet beyond the top.

    Yeah, Michael climbed to the top of the highest mountain, then built a rickety ladder from twigs he gathered along the way, climbed to the top of that, and then jumped off of that…

  16. Tyrell says:

    Are any candidates talking about the economy ? Well, Trump brought up hedge funds, but the average person would probably have no idea what he is talking about. Sanders talks about help for the middle class, but exactly what that would be has not been spelled out. Anyone talking about the ongoing crisis in Europe and China ? How about the national debt ? The stock market is on a roller coaster, or is it a correction ? We hear “collapse” being whispered, it’s in the air.
    Most of the issues that are being talked about are diversions.
    This fall looks to be interesting. Get ready for anything.

  17. anjin-san says:

    @Tyrell:

    Sanders talks about help for the middle class, but exactly what that would be has not been spelled out.

    https://berniesanders.com/issues/

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Davebo: Michael’s been doing a lot of that lately.

  19. J-Dub says:

    Walker should just memorize this phrase: “Let me check with my owners and get back to you”.

  20. J-Dub says:

    @anjin-san: Sanders spells it out in quite a bit of detail on his site.

  21. humanoid.panda says:

    According to the WSJ, Walker’s finance co-chair is considering to defect to Trump.
    This means 2 things
    1. Walker’s campaign is spinning in the toilet.
    2. Trump is now a legitimate candidate.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @humanoid.panda: It would appear to also mean Trump’s going to go fund raising. It’ll be interesting to see how he manages to do so without blowing the – I’m rich, I can’t be bought – routine. I’d guess by going for small donations, but Walker’s campaign doesn’t seem like good training for going on the web and looking for ten dollar donations. Nor does that feel like a good way to raise the most of a billion dollars he’ll need if he’s serious. As Arte Johnson used to say, “Very interesting.”

  23. grumpy realist says:

    Looks like Rick Perry can’t yet see the writing on the wall…but people in his campaign can.

  24. Andre Kenji says:

    1-) Walker is boring. He does not have a coherent vision of anything, he is always speaking with the same tone of voice.

    2-) Trump is right that Walker´s Wisconsin is not doing well.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan: @Davebo:

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly what you all told me 8 years ago when I said the opposition to Obama was simple racism dressed up with a lot of policy b.s..

    And now you’re all singing from my hymnal.

    I really don’t mean to be an arrogant a-hole, but sometimes the smug engineers and the poli-sci majors and the computer scientists and the rest of the STEM folk really ought to consider listening to the “artist” because that’s what we do, we silly, hyperbolic liberal arts folk, we see things a bit earlier. We are the canaries in the coal mine.

    Did I not tell you all that the Tea Party was nothing but the Jesus wing of the GOP? Did you not all tell me I was over the top? And was I not right?

    Did I not tell you that the GOP was disconnecting from consensual reality, and did you not all tell me I was over the top, hyperbolic, blah blah blah? And was I not right?

    Did I not tell you that the new GOP was not about policy but about white panic, emotion, rage? Do you think Trump is the front runner because of his policy positions? Or do you think now maybe I was right?

    Did I not tell you the GOP was flirting with fascism, and did you not etc…?

    Don’t tell me I’m over the top. I have a long history around here of being right. You people look at systems, I look at humans. And let me tell you something: nothing the GOP has done, nothing the GOP has become, has surprised me in the least. How many of you can say that?

    I love you STEM folk, my son is STEM folk, some of my favorite people, including many of you are STEM folk, but you have a deep and abiding prejudice against anyone who doesn’t work with numbers. I’m a “creative” who has lived and breathed politics since I was 16, which would be right about 45 years now, longer than some of you have been alive let alone politically aware, and amazingly, despite my inability to do anything beyond long division, it’s rather unlikely that anyone here is significantly smarter than I am. In fact, I believe the mathematical odds you all love would suggest that few of you are close.

    I’m right. You’re wrong. And in a couple of years you’ll get it.

  26. Tyrell says:

    @anjin-san: Thanks for that site, I never thought of going to his website. I agree with most of what his plans are, but I wonder how he would pay for some of that, such as free college education.
    It seems that Trump has now switched to talking about the economy. Today he talked about the ridiculous deficit situation. Our government is printing money like tickets to the fall carnival rides !

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And now you’re all singing from my hymnal.

    No Michael, I have been singing from my own hymnal all along. It’s just that every now and again we sing in harmony and you are just egotistical enough to think you are singing lead. Here’s a hint: You aren’t. You don’t seem to have taken note of the nativist bent throughout all of American history. Now all of a sudden you see it and you think you are the only one, while the rest of us are going, “Yeah yeah, SSDD. Call me when they build the ovens.” You see, it is not that we don’t think this is a problem, we just don’t think Hitler has arisen from the dead like the Christ figure with a 666 tattoo.

    I’m right. You’re wrong. And in a couple of years you’ll get it.

    In a couple years you might figure out that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but I won’t hold my breath for the day when you can actually admit that maybe, just maybe, you were mistaken about something, not least of which is the fact that not all Republicans want to gas illegal immigrants.

  28. anjin-san says:

    @Tyrell:

    I wonder how he would pay for some of that, such as free college education.

    End corporate welfare perhaps. Or boondoggles like the Joint Strike Fighter program.

    Other countries do it. Are you saying America just can’t do what others do?

  29. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: If you look at what every other advanced nation in what used to be called the “free world” — so not Iran or Russia or the PRC — spends on their military and spends on their nation’s health care and spends on incarcerating prisoners and spends on K-thru-12 education and — heck — spends on post secondary education and you imagined that we here spent the same proportion of our GDP on those things and then looked at the budget that America would have left over to spend on ‘free college tuition’ and ‘building great roads and airports and mass transit’ you’d see that our problem is not spending too much money, it’s spending our money stupidly.

    D@mn. All one sentence. I’ll have to do better or the inner english teacher will have me cleaning erasers in the back yard til dooms day.

  30. Tyrell says:

    @JohnMcC:Well, chalkboards and erasers are way long gone. First to come along were the “dry erase” boards that can be cleaned with a special bottle of spray cleaner and a special eraser. But I found that the really good boards can be cleaned with just water and a rag. But now smart boards are replacing a lot of the dry erase boards.
    Schools do not teach writing skills and grammar much anymore.

  31. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: You know, that’s certainly true. I wonder if the EPA has taken note of the improved air quality in classrooms and in the backyards of schools since blackboard, chalk and felt erasers have been replaced?

  32. Barry says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “You don’t seem to have taken note of the nativist bent throughout all of American history. Now all of a sudden you see it and you think you are the only one, …”

    I disagree. Michael is pointing at a massive surge in nativism. Please note that Trump is hugely popular among The Base for this, while other GOP politicians are moving strongly in his direction.

    Overton Window.

  33. Grewgills says:

    @Barry:
    Nativism has been slowly growing in the Republican party since the 80s and Reagan’s ”amnesty”. Though it has been an undercurrent in American politics from the start that waxes and wanes periodically. Even the recent ‘surge’ in nativism predates Trump and is considerably less horrible than previous surges have beeen. The tea party wing gave voice to it and they have been saying in one form or another what Trump has been spouting for near a decade now. At present 1/4 to 1/3 of one party that makes up about 1/3 of the electorate have a vague support for the nativist crap Trump is spouting. Most of them have done little to nothing in the way of thinking through the implications of what their gut and minimal attention have them feeling at the moment. It is far to early with far too few people engaged to claim the next rise of the brown shirts is around the corner.
    The only thing new Trump is bringing is his signature crass style to say what candidates have been saying with dog whistles for at least a decade. What you see as a massive surge I see as the seedy underbelly that has been their for decades being exposed.