Quotes of the day

Headlines blared this weekend that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he favors building a giant wall along the northern border, but his camp claims he never said this.

“Despite the attempts of some to put words in his mouth, Gov. Walker wasn’t advocating for a wall along our northern border,” campaign spokeswoman AshLee Strong told the Washington Examiner’s media desk on Monday…

Only a small handful of newsrooms, including the Washington Post, which corrected its original headline suggesting Walker wanted a wall, broke with the pack to note that the governor was talking about overall security concerns on the northern border.

“Chuck asked about it and Gov. Walker said based on what he’s hearing from people there are security concerns that need to be addressed,” his campaign told the Examiner.

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“There have been a lot of dumb ideas put out,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in an interview with Boston Herald Radio. “One, that the Mexicans will pay for a wall, [which] was probably the dumbest of dumb ideas. But putting a wall up between us and Canada is sort of a ridiculous notion.”

Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was born and raised near the Canadian border, called building a wall to keep Canadians out “crazy.”

“Election season always brings out crazy ideas, but this is one of the craziest,” he said in a written statement on Monday. “If Marcelle’s (his wife’s) parents were still here they would say the same thing, but in French.” Leahy married Marcelle Pomerleau in 1962. Her family is French-Canadian.

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Via the DMR.

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Walker’s backers see a campaign discombobulated by Trump’s booming popularity and by his provocative language on immigration, China and other issues. They see in Walker a candidate who — in contrast to the discipline he showed in state races — continues to commit unforced errors, either out of lack of preparation or in an attempt to grab for part of the flamboyant businessman’s following.

These supporters say what is needed now is a return to basics, a more disciplined focus on the issues Walker long has championed in Wisconsin. They say there also needs to be a clear acknowledgment inside the campaign that the governor has yet to put to rest questions about his readiness to handle the problems and unexpected challenges that confront every president…

Several supporters say Walker appears to have had too many meetings with too many experts, turning him into a more timid version of himself. They miss the Midwestern candidate who focused on economic issues like weakening public unions, making painful cuts to the budget and reducing taxes by more than $2 billion.

A former Republican officeholder said Walker needs to project the political persona that first made him attractive to conservatives, rather than seemingly lurch further to the right on issues that never have been at his core.

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Walker’s fade is a bit harder to understand. A sitting Governor of a swing state, he had accomplished a host of very conservative reforms in a state that was not necessarily inured to them. He stood up to a very powerful public sector and overcame opposition from within his own Republican party to push the envelope on reform. He won three statewide elections in four years. Walker also has a compelling personal story that is the opposite of the resume of the political class.

Yet, on the trail he underwhelms. His performance in the first GOP debate was forgettable. He relied on canned talking points at the exact moment voters were most interested in authenticity. Another governor, John Kasich, improbably out-shined him. Kasich has many unconservative positions, but he comes across as a real human being, instead of a political candidate. Walker looked as if he had been debate-prepped into wallpaper.

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“I’m literally dizzy trying to keep track of where he’s at, and in Iowa, he’s the incredible shrinking candidate right now,” says Doug Gross, a Republican strategist in the Hawkeye State not affiliated with any of the campaigns. “He is trying to occupy every lane, and in this environment, where authenticity is so important, he’s coming off as an opportunistic candidate who doesn’t know who he is.”…

“Voters sense when a candidate changed positions for political expediency and they don’t like it,” says John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former congressional aide. “I think Walker’s shifting positions have hurt him. There are plenty of candidates out there and voters usually gravitate to the ones they trust the most.”…

“Like almost everybody else running, these guys are all trying to get some traction in a Trump world. Walker is especially boring in this Trump world,” Feehery says. “I think he thinks the only way he can get traction is to move further to the right. Not sure if that works, but that is his strategy.”…

“It has always been my opinion that if Scott Walker ran for president as a conservative, he would find plenty of success. As we are now seeing, he’s not running as a strong, reform-minded conservative, and that is severely hurting him in a state like Iowa,” writes Iowa Republican strategist Craig Robinson. “In Iowa it’s not good enough to have the right position on an issue. Evangelical voters here are looking for conviction on their issues, and they are not seeing that from Walker.”

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Even when he isn’t trying to mimic Trump, Walker has had a difficult time delivering a clear and consistent message. The governor has a strong pro-life record, but during his 2014 reelection campaign he wouldn’t say if he’d sign legislation protecting unborn children after the fifth month of pregnancy. He again declined to specify any actions he’d take to protect the lives of unborn children in a March 1 interview on Fox News Sunday. Two days later, under pressure from pro-life leaders, Walker said he would sign the popular bill banning abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy. He made good on that promise in June.

But in the August 6 GOP debate, with 24 million people watching, Walker staked out a very unpopular position on the issue. When Fox News’s Megyn Kelly asked Walker if he’d “really let a mother die rather than have an abortion,” Walker replied, “that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that will also protect the life of that mother.” In a post-debate interview with Sean Hannity, Walker called the question a “false choice.”…

There were several problems with Walker’s statements, the first of which is that they just aren’t true. There are cases prior to viability when lifesaving treatment for a pregnant woman will necessarily result in the death of her unborn child. A Walker aide told me that Walker doesn’t consider such treatments to be abortion, but Walker’s public comments did not make that clear…

There’s still time for Walker to turn things around and win the GOP nomination. But if he’s going to succeed, he’ll need to do a better job of explaining his agenda—and convincing voters it’s clear in his own mind.

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“Given China’s massive cyberattacks against America, its militarization of the South China Sea, continued state interference with its economy, and persistent persecution of Christians and human rights activists, President Obama needs to cancel the state visit,” Walker said in the statement.

But up until he emerged as a top presidential contender, concerns about Chinese currency manipulation and human-rights violations didn’t seem like a top priority for Walker… Throughout his governorship, Walker adopted rhetoric and policies that sought to build bridges and deepen relationships between China and Wisconsin—even though, according to one analysis, the Badger State lost more than 60,000 jobs during his tenure because of the growing Chinese trade deficit and the country’s currency manipulation…

Shortly before the 2012 presidential election, Walker made an appearance on CCTV—a Chinese state television broadcaster—sporting a lapel pin that depicted the American and Chinese flags side by side, waving over Wisconsin (Wisconsin blogger Jud Lounsbury flagged the video on YouTube in 2013).

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Things get ugly for Walker—very ugly, quite fast—when he talks about immigration. It’s complicated his presidential bid, causing him headache upon headache. And some who know him say that a big reason his immigration struggles are perpetually messy just might be because he doesn’t necessarily buy into the things he’s saying

Charlie Sykes, one of the most influential conservative talk-radio hosts in Wisconsin, estimates he’s interviewed Walker hundreds of times over the last 20 years. Sykes said there may be a very simple explanation for why Walker has had so much trouble talking about the issue: The governor doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

That’s right. Walker’s Breitbart-friendly, immigration-skeptical rhetoric on the issue is an innovation that seems to make the governor uncomfortable. Sykes said that though Walker’s official stances put him nearly as far right as Donald Trump on questions regarding birthright citizenship and the economic impact of legal immigration, his heart is elsewhere. Sykes said he thinks Walker has adopted this position to keep any other Republican candidates from getting to his right…

“I think the nativist rhetoric does not come naturally to him,” Sykes continued. “That is not his native tongue. That’s when a politician begins to stumble, when they’re speaking a language they’re really not that comfortable with.”

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His problems continued on Sunday. Walker was grilled on birthright citizenship and gay marriage flip-flops, his low home-state polling and his state’s economic record, that latter suggesting a line of attack for other GOP governors in the race. Walker pleaded that “if you look at Minnesota, it’s had a lower unemployment rate for 25 years, or something like that, in the last two, two and a half decades. So that’s not an apples to apples comparison.” Really, Wisconsin can’t be as good as Minnesota? Then he argued that “we’re heavily dependent on manufacturing. That’s been something that’s been slow, not just there, but across the country.” One can imagine other governors licking their chops. Even worse, he was pushed into saying a wall on the Canadian border is worth considering. That’s plain goofy since immigrants are not exactly streaming in from Canada.

Meanwhile, Christie was loose and funny on Fox News Sunday. (At one point he declared, “Let’s do a lightning round baby, let’s go.”) Jabbing at Hillary Clinton for telling Fox’s Ed Henry he was “entitled” to only one question at a recent press availability, Christie joked, “Thank you very much, your highness. We appreciate it. This is not royalty in the United States. You have to battle, fight, and answer questions by the American people to become president of the United States. It’s not a familial ascendancy.” On her comparing pro-lifers to terrorists, Christie punched back. “Well there’s a uniter, isn’t. Comparing Republicans to terrorist groups. There’s a real uniter. That’s the woman you want sitting in the Oval Office to bring our country back together. That’s a disgrace and she’s a disgrace.”…

Christie, like other contenders, is overshadowed for the moment by Donald Trump. Unlike Walker, however, he has stuck to his guns on issues and performed ably in the debate. Walker seems in over his head.

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Walker hasn’t been the dark horse we expected—the strongest challenger to Jeb Bush’s dynastic candidacy. He’s been, instead, a non-presence. He doesn’t flicker, let alone catch fire, and when it comes to issues and answering voters, the Wisconsin governor has been awkward, clumsy, and flat-footed. Yes, he has money and yes, he has an organization. But that doesn’t make up for skill, or a lack thereof. So far, he just isn’t good, and it shows…

As for Walker? Trump has him shook. On birthright citizenship, the Wisconsin governor has had three different answers. At the Iowa State Fair, he told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt that he wanted to curb the practice. “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,” he said. The following Friday he told CNBC that he wouldn’t take a stance on the issue. And this past Sunday, he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he doesn’t want to repeal or alter the provision at all. It’s clear, at this point, that he just doesn’t know what to say.

In fairness to Walker, Trump overlaps with his base—working-class and downscale whites. To a large degree, Walker has been shut out by Trump’s rise; with Trump in the race, it’s hard to get a hold with these voters, who prefer the flamboyant reality television star to the staid Midwestern politician…

There’s also the question of Walker’s electoral success. Of his three statewide wins, two were in midterm years, when Republicans have the advantage. Other than the recall race—which took place in the summer of 2012, well before that November’s national elections—he’s never run during a presidential year, when—in the last two cycles—Democrats have had the advantage. His rhetoric aside, he may not be as electable as he looks.

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