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Walker caught in conservative crossfire over aide's departure

Scott Walker aide Liz Mair stepped down after upsetting Iowa Republicans, but her exit is prompting withering criticism of Walker from the right.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

The unofficial slogan of the 2016 presidential campaign is fast becoming "Never tweet."

The latest victim is Republican consultant Liz Mair, whom Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hired as a digital communications staffer for his PAC. She was then let go within a day over old tweets she had sent about Iowa's oversized role in the presidential nominating process, infuriating the state's top Republicans. 

But Mair's abrupt departure is now creating new problems for Walker. Mair has a long relationship with many leading conservative bloggers, columnists, and reporters who are expressing outrage over her ouster and who are slamming Walker for buckling so easily to her critics.

“I think an early test for Scott Walker is going to be if he is willing to stand up to the sound and fury of people outraged by a staffer’s tweet in the way he stood up to union activists,” Red State co-founder Erick Erickson wrote in a blog post defending Mair.

After Mair announced she was leaving, Erickson said in an update that Walker “botched this." He accused the governor of forcing her out and suggested it “plays into the ‘not ready for prime time’ theme already developing around Team Walker.” 

Related: Scott Walker: I'm not a flip-flopper

National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg concurred with Erickson, writing that Walker’s refusal to rock the boat with Iowa Republicans raised questions about his willingness to stand up to Republican critics.

“[T]hrowing her under the bus for this, suggests not only that he’s got some problems getting ready for prime time, it also suggests he can get rolled by the Iowa GOP establishment,” Goldberg wrote. “What happens when he gets to Washington?”

The two men were joined by more slings and arrows from Hot Air blogger Jazz Shaw, among others.

Mair’s exit follows the hiring and firing of Ethan Czahor by Jeb Bush's PAC. Czahor was let go last month over offensive tweets about "sluts," among others. Ben Carson's exploratory committee is dealing with fallout over a new staffer, Jim Dornan, who left a trail of profane tweets including one that told President Obama to “bend over bitch.”

The Mair case is not like the two others. Her alleged offenses were not crude language or inflammatory comments, they were touching a nerve with Iowa Republicans by questioning their sacrosanct first-in-the-nation status and holding heterodox views on key issues that ran counter to some hardline conservatives.

During January’s Iowa Freedom Summit, a 2016 cattle call organized by Republican Rep. Steve King, Mair tweeted that Iowa was “embarrassing itself” with anti-immigration rhetoric from some of the speakers and later added: “The sooner we remove Iowa's frontrunning status, the better off American politics and policy will be.” She mocked “morons across America” for being surprised that Iowans were “government-dependent” thanks to agriculture subsidies and renewable fuel standards, a remark she later clarified was directed at Democrats. 

Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann denounced Mair in a New York Times interview as “shallow and ignorant” and urged Walker to give her “her walking papers.” Mair told reporters she was leaving shortly afterwards on Tuesday, saying "the tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse.”

Reached by phone, Mair declined an interview request, but took to Twitter to defend her positions on immigration, the Iowa caucuses, and agricultural policy in more detail. 

Related: Scott Walker and the 'home-state haters' problem

In addition to her work with candidates like Rick Perry in 2012, Mair had also consulted with pro-immigration reform groups. Mair, who leaned libertarian, also supports gay marriage. These positions, especially on immigration, sparked an outcry from some on the right. Breitbart’s Matt Boyle launched a crusade against Mair over “amnesty” and suggested her dual citizenship status (Mair has lived for stretches in the United Kingdom and her husband is a Scot) indicated disloyalty.

“Why wasn’t US citizenship good enough?” he asked Mair.

Asked whether Mair’s exit was her idea or demanded by Walker’s PAC, spokesman Rick Wiley neither confirmed or denied she was fired.  

“We accept those who have a variety of viewpoints on issues but what we ultimately must have is absolute respect for people across the country,” Wiley said in a statement. “Our American Revival is an organization formed to promote bold reforms across the country and we’re going to continue advocating for those ideals.”