Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) seems to realize he has a problem with immigration policy. The issue is a top concern to Republican primary voters, and the governor has tried to take steps to bring his position in line with GOP orthodoxy, but Walker has nevertheless given inconsistent responses to questions about immigration, satisfying no one.
With this in mind, the Wisconsin Republican took a trip to the U.S./Mexico border on Friday, a sensible photo-op for a presidential hopeful eager to pander to anti-immigration voters in his party.
If you didn’t hear much about this, there’s an explanation: Walker has started keeping news organizations at arm’s length. Dylan Byers reported the other day:
Last month, Scott Walker seemed readily available to any reporter who had a question for him. He was basking in the limelight, holding media scrums and granting impromptu interviews.But in the wake of a few controversial, headline-grabbing quotes about evolution and President Obama’s religion, the Wisconsin governor and likely Republican presidential candidate has put brakes on his media availability, reporters who follow him say.On Friday, Walker toured the Texas-Mexican border with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The tour was closed to the press, and Walker did not take part in a media avail afterward.
The whole point of a presidential candidate going to the border and taking a tour alongside a far-right Republican governor is its symbolic value – public relations is the sole purpose of visits like these. It’s Republican Presidential Campaign Politics 101: the candidate shows up, he or she looks concerned, he or she shakes some hands with border guards, and he or she tells reporters about the importance of “getting tough.”
But Walker has decided to remove political reporters from the equation. As Byers noted, this isn’t limited to Friday’s border tour – last weekend, the Wisconsin Republican became the sixth national candidate to visit Greenville, S.C. but the only one of the six who wouldn’t take questions from the media.
It’d be an exaggeration to say Walker has completely ignored political media, but those who’ve followed the governor closely have noticed that he’s far less accessible than he’s been in Madison, and even less accessible as an unannounced candidate than he was six weeks ago.
One campaign reporter, referencing Walker’s aides, told Politico, “They’ve largely shut him down since the Post gotcha about Obama being a Christian.”
If that is the game plan, it’s a flawed strategy. Walker couldn’t have been pleased with his recent missteps – on evolution, on the Boy Scouts, on air-traffic controllers, on ISIS, on Rudy Giuliani, on President Obama – which left him looking unprepared for national office.
But if a candidate’s answers to questions make him look bad, the answer isn’t to avoid questions; the answer is to offer better answers.