Let me be the first to say it: Consider this RINO purged.

No, no, I’m kidding. We’re still recovering from the trauma of Marco “Tea Party” Rubio deciding that Chuck Schumer has some really awesome ideas on immigration. We’re in no condition to write off any other potential 2016 heroes. (To which I quickly add: Most conservatives haven’t written off Rubio either.) Quote:

“If people want to come here and work hard and benefit, I don’t care whether they come from Mexico or Ireland or Germany or Canada or South Africa or anywhere else,” Walker said Tuesday during an interview with the Daily Herald Media Editorial Board of Wisconsin. “I want them here.”

Walker was then asked about the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally. The editorial board asked if he could “envision a world where with the right penalties and waiting periods and meet the requirements where those people could get citizenship?”

“Sure,” Walker responded. “I mean I think it makes sense.”

Like every other member of the Republican establishment, Walker sounded tougher on immigration as a candidate than he does as an elected official. But look: Unless Ted Cruz runs in 2016, it’s highly likely that every Republican onstage during the primaries will support a path to citizenship. Even House Republicans who technically oppose it sometimes do so with an asterisk, emphasizing that they oppose creating a new, special path for illegals as part of comprehensive reform but not necessarily allowing illegals to apply through normal channels after having lived here with legal status for some period. The only top-flight candidate I know of who’s made noise about blocking illegals from citizenship is Jeb Bush, and that was simply his lame attempt to get a second look from border hawks in case he runs. If legalization occurs, citizenship will follow at some point; anything else would leave illegals with second-class status, which would be political poison for the GOP. Legalization means citizenship, and the Democrats’ price for agreeing to more border security is legalization. This is why I’ve spent a lot of time whining about Rubio’s cave on probationary legalization before the border is secured in the Gang of Eight bill and less time whining about his support for citizenship years down the road. The initial legalization is the GOP’s only real leverage in making sure the border is tightened so that we don’t have to do this again in 25 years. That was Rubio’s crucial sell-out.

Besides, Walker and Rubio are positioned very differently in 2016. Walker’s the guy who took on big labor and the screeching left in the name of collective bargaining reforms. He’ll run as Mr. Fiscal Responsibility. Rubio will run as Mr. Electability (a very socially conservative Mr. Electability), with immigration reform his big asset and his big liability. This is a central issue for Rubio and an ancillary one for Walker, so Walker will have more room to maneuver. Having said all that, though, watch the clip. He seems focused mainly on work visas, not so much citizenship, but I’d be interested in hearing him elaborate on what he says about border security: “I don’t know if you need any of that if you had a better, saner way to let people into the country in the first place.” Hmmm.