Tightrope Walker

After the show, a spokesman rushed in to clarify the governor’s remarks. His communications director, Tom Evenson, explained that a pathway to citizenship that requires individuals to face penalties to gain citizenship does not qualify as “amnesty,” a position he repeated in an e-mail to National Review Online.

Can voters read between the lines? The latest hire to Walker’s Our American Revival PAC, his campaign holding pen, is GOP operative Gregg Keller, who has voiced his support for immigration reform and called Florida senator Marco Rubio, one of Walker’s potential rivals for the Republican nomination, “the future of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.” Walker himself name-checked Rubio — favorably — several times in that ABC interview.

That’s no substitute for a substantive policy, and the seemingly deliberate ambiguity of his answer is of a piece with many of Walker’s statements on immigration in recent years. He has tried to use the nebulousness of buzzwords like “amnesty” and “pathway to citizenship” — which can be used interchangeably or to differentiate between policies, depending on the speaker — to his advantage. On the one hand, he claims to oppose the former, beefing up his bona fides with the conservative base. On the other, he claims to support the latter. As Politifact Wisconsin put it, Walker’s efforts to walk along this particular political tightrope have led to “seemingly contradictory” statements, and he’s been “hard to pin down” on the issue.