USA TODAY US Edition
Scott Walker’s supporters urge a return to core beliefs
As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential poll numbers free-fall, longtime observers and supporters in his home state say they know why: The Walker they know isn’t the same one they see on the presidential trail.
He supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, then came out against it. He opposed government mandates to include ethanol in fuel, then supported a mandate while courting votes in Iowa, where nearly half the corn produced goes into ethanol production.
When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June, Walker called for a constitutional amendment to allow states to ban it. A month later, he said it wouldn’t be a top priority if he is elected president. Last month, he said he supported Donald Trump’s call to end birthright cit- izenship, then said he supports birthright citizenship as provided by the 14th Amendment.
“I fear what happened when he decided to run for president is he decided to act like a politician instead of a leader,” said Rick Esenberg, founder of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative think-tank and legal organization based in Milwaukee.
He said Walker needs to get back to being the governor who did exactly what he thought was right, even if it looked like political suicide.
“I think he started to overthink things ... and when he did, the case for him to be president of the United States just becomes weak,” said Esenberg, who has supported Walker in Wisconsin elections but hasn’t decided whether he’ll support his presidential bid. “Then he just becomes another guy, and he fades into the background.”
Green Bay-area Republican Rep. Reid Ribble, a close friend of the governor, put it more diplomatically.
“He needs to get back to his core,” he said. “Get back and really study what you believe about any issue so that it’s internalized and it’s actually a true belief and then you can communicate it honestly.”
Walker spokeswoman Ash Lee Strong pointed to comments made by campaign manager Rick Wiley to WisPolitics.com last week that suggest Walker plans to get his campaign back on track by focusing more on his record in Wisconsin and on policies he would put in place as president. In addition, Walker will try to pivot away from national media questions he feels are a distraction, Wiley said.
“The plan is in place, and he knows what the plan is,” Wiley told WisPolitics.com.