CONCORD, New Hampshire – Scott Walker, flip-flopper? The Republican Wisconsin governor says no.
Walker on Saturday defended himself against charges that he has changed his positions on a series of issues as he looks to try and win over conservative Republican primary voters, particularly in Iowa. Walker is weighing a run for the White House in 2016.
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“The key is if you listen to people and you’ve got a valid argument for why you’ve done it – we’ve laid out exactly what we’ve done,” Walker told reporters who crowded around him after a brief speech to voters in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
The recent accusations are “just a narrative from the other campaigns that are frustrated with the fact that we’ve got a strong reputation of keeping our word,” Walker said.
Walker’s comments came during his first public appearance in New Hampshire as a likely presidential candidate. Walker has been in the state since Thursday night but has spent most of his time holding private meetings away from voters and the press. He did do interviews with state media – and also with the Tampa Bay Times, a paper based in Jeb Bush’s home state of Florida. Bush was in the state Friday and Saturday, making his first political visit to New Hampshire in 15 years.
Walker has surged in polls after a strong speech in Iowa at the beginning of the year. But it has put him in the spotlight – a sometimes harsh place to be, especially when a half dozen other Republicans are eyeing his perch. Aides to a number of rival Republicans have been eager to suggest Walker has changed his positions on multiple issues, including immigration, right to work laws, abortion and Common Core education standards.
Walker acknowledges he has shifted his position on immigration, telling reporters Saturday he made the switch after watching problems intensify on the southern border.
But he maintains he hasn’t changed his position on abortion or on right to work, the measure he just signed into law in Wisconsin over the objections of labor unions.
“I’ve always supported right to work,” he said.
The changes highlight how Walker is working to appeal to the party’s conservative base in the course of the presidential nomination fight.
But the strategy can have pitfalls. In 2008, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney earned a reputation as a flip-flopper that dogged him through the 2012 election, when he did become the nominee.