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Monday, March 2, 2015

 4:02 PM 

Walker: 'My view has changed' on immigration

Gov. Scott Walker says he has changed his position on immigration and doesn't support amnesty for illegal immigrants now living in the U.S.

Walker's comments on immigration in recent weeks have been under scrutiny as he insisted he opposed amnesty despite past comments and actions that suggested he had previously supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants now living in the country.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," the likely presidential candidate said his position has changed. He blamed President Obama's handling of the immigration issue for the shift.

"My view has changed, I'm flat-out saying it. Candidates can say that, sometimes they don't," Walker said.

The guv also insisted he hasn't flipped his position on right-to-work after calling the bill a distraction last year, but now promising to sign it. He said now "is the perfect time" for the bill.

"I never said I'd veto it," Walker said. "I asked for them not to make it a distraction early on in the session. I presented my budget. I laid out my agenda. They're acting on that right now. Now is the perfect time."

The guv also sought to address other controversies that have flared in recent weeks.

Walker insisted he wasn't comparing ISIS to protesters who flooded the Capitol four years ago when he told a crowd of conservative activists last week if he could take on the pro-union crowd, "I can do the same across the world."

He insisted he was not comparing the two entities and his comment "was about leadership."

Walker also said he believes the president loves America.

Walker has taken flak after Rudy Giuliani said at a dinner the two attended that Obama didn't love America. Walker, who had refused to condemn the comments previously, said the former New York mayor wasn't speaking on his behalf.

"I think, in the end, he and anybody else who is willing to put their name on the ballot certainly has to have the love for country to do that," Walker said.

The guv also waded into his refusal to answer a question on whether he believed the president is a Christian, saying he wasn't going to get into a "manufactured media crisis."

Read the transcript of Sunday's show

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 2:34 PM 

Franklin: Peaking too early can be a problem in presidential nomination process

Gov. Scott Walker may be flying high in the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign contest, but can he sustain it?

Just days before Walker suggested dealing with protesters had prepared him for taking on terrorists from the self-proclaimed Islamic State during a speech at the annual CPAC on Thursday, Marquette Law School poll director Charles Franklin told a DC breakfast sponsored by WisPolitics on Tuesday that one of the keys to winning a presidential nomination is to not peak too early.

"Everybody got their 15 minutes" of fame during the GOP nominating contest in 2012, Franklin noted. But "brief opportunity is hard to translate into constant support, " he said, reminding attendees of the short-lived rises of Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain last time around.

But in addition to a "breakout" performance at the Iowa Freedom Summit last month, Walker has another advantage over most would-be GOP nominees: a national donor base, Franklin said. Thanks to the high-profile but ultimately unsuccessful effort to have him recalled in 2012 and his tough re-election race last November, Walker sports a broader pool of donors than most governors, Franklin said.

At this stage of the primaries, it's crucial to define yourself before critics or rivals do, Franklin said. Walker did an excellent job of that in Iowa when he introduced himself to conservative activists likely to be key in deciding the nation's first presidential caucuses, he said.

"In Wisconsin it's hard for us to understand that Scott Walker isn't a household name everywhere" but he isn't and he did a good job of letting Iowans know who he is and what he has accomplished so far, Franklin said.

Generally speaking, any potential nominee is mostly acceptable to the bulk of primary voters so the trick is standing out from the crowd, said Franklin.

But since Iowa, it's an open question whether Walker is standing out in a good way.

He came under heavy fire by refusing to acknowledge that President Obama is a Christian during the recent National Governors Association meeting in Washington. And mere hours after making the protester-ISIS connection on Thursday, Walker was walking back from it.

"My point was just, if I could handle that kind of a pressure and kind of intensity (of the 2011 protests), I think I'm up for the challenge for whatever might come, if I choose to run for president," Walker told Bloomberg Politics after.

There are also lessons from Wisconsin polling on Walker.

The governor has never won in November of a presidential year in Wisconsin, so it's unclear how he would fare in the fall of 2016 when many Dem-leaning voters who don't vote in gubernatorial elections come to the polls, Franklin suggested.

But Walker has won independents -- who do not affiliate themselves with either party -- in his three gubernatorial races. However, independents and moderate party members are not necessarily one bloc, Franklin said. "The two groups are splitting differently in Wisconsin right now," he added.

In another 2016 race, freshman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, could have a tough road to reelection, Franklin said.

"Johnson, for someone now four-plus years into his first term," still doesn't have great name identification, Franklin said. Former Sen. Russ Feingold still is better known than Johnson and is viewed more favorably by Wisconsinites than Johnson, he said.

That could give Feingold the leg up, should he choose to seek a rematch.

Listen to audio from the event

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

 4:51 PM 

Walker finishes second in CPAC straw poll

Gov. Scott Walker finished second in the Washington Times/CPAC presidential preference straw poll, just behind U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

Paul was backed by 25.7 percent of the 3,007 conservative activists who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington, D.C. Walker was supported by 21.4 percent of voters.

Sen. Ted Cruz was third at 11.5 percent, while Ben Carson was next at 11.4 and Jeb Bush was fifth at 8.3 percent.

It was the third straight time Paul, R-Ky., has topped the poll. this year's was conducted Wednesday through Friday.

See the full results.

-- By JR Ross

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Friday, February 27, 2015

 9:07 AM 

Walker comments on ISIS, state Capitol protesters prompt strong reactions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gov. Scott Walker continued to steal the spotlight and make headlines on his second trip to Washington in less than a week.

Speaking Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which has become an early, can't-miss appearance for potential Republican presidential candidates, Walker won big applause during his 15-minute speech. But like at the National Governors Association meeting last weekend, he uttered something during the question-and-answer session that could haunt him: he suggested dealing with thousands of protesters in the Wisconsin Capitol prepared him to take on ISIS.

"If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," he said in response to an audience member who asked him how he would confront the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group, which is also known as ISIS and ISIL.

The comment quickly drew condemnation from Wisconsin groups, who accused Walker of comparing teachers and nurses to terrorists. But a Walker spokeswoman insists he was not comparing American citizens to ISIS.

"Governor Walker believes our fight against ISIS is one of the most important issues our country faces," said spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. "He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership. Those are the qualities we need to fix the leadership void this White House has created."

The comment also drew a mixed reaction from those at the conference.

"To compare 100,000 unarmed students to well-armed terrorists is pretty stupid," said Chandler Lassen, a 20-year-old University of South Carolina student who attended in his capacity as treasurer of South Carolina's College Republicans.

Professionals were less harsh in their assessment and chalked up the incident to a gaffe.

Tom Basile, who led a workshop titled "Effective communication to expand a conservative majority" earlier in the afternoon, said Q&A sessions at this early stage of the campaign, during which almost all contenders are in "exploratory" mode, can be fraught with peril and must be navigated carefully. And especially in regards to foreign policy, most would-be nominees don't yet have "fully formed" views that they can articulate clearly, said the Forbes and XM-Radio contributor.

Walker was trying to say that the United States needs to confront the Muslim extremist threat more directly than President Barack Obama has done so far, Basile said. "His point is that he's going to be tougher than Obama," Basile said.

Byron Thomas, a 23-year-old senior at the University of South Carolina, didn't take Walker's comments literally and instead focused on his larger point about how dangerous ISIS is at home and abroad.

"We have to do everything we can to get rid" of ISIS and similar groups, Thomas said. "We can't drop a nuclear bomb, because that would be immoral," yet the threat is great and must be confronted.

Walker made headlines last weekend when he said "I don't know" in response to a reporter asking whether he thought Obama was a Christian. That answer earned him condemnation from some pundits but plaudits from many within the Republican base, who will decide who the 2016 GOP presidential nominee is. Similarly, his ISIS comment quickly hit the blogs and social media but it remains to be seen if it will have any lasting negative affect on his nascent campaign. Critics have dinged Walker for not having a clear foreign policy agenda but he made clear Thursday that for now, it is anything diametrically opposed to Obama's actions.

He mocked Obama for declaring Yemen a success in the Mideast and Iran as "a country we can do business with." He also took a swipe at Hillary Clinton, without naming her, by deriding Obama's former secretary of state for pushing a "reset button" with Russia.

His comments on domestic issues met with equal applause from the crowd packing the ballroom at the National Harbor hotel, which is just outside Washington's city limits in Maryland.

They ate up Walker's boasts about taking on "big labor" by stripping public unions of their collective bargaining powers and Republicans' latest victory in making Wisconsin a "right to work" state. However, one attendant—who was escorted out—shouted, "You suck," when Walker recounted his coups against labor. Walker took it in stride, ad libbing how "millions" of people feel differently and how his actions were a victory for "Wisconsin's "hard-working taxpayers."

"I really liked what he had to say except about the minimum wage," Lassen said. "I feel we should embrace it federally," he said, adding that too many workers making less than minimum wage cannot survive on such low wages.

Thomas said that although he comes from a union household, he strongly supports Walker's stance on organized labor.

"I think people should work for what they get," he said. The government and unions "just hand stuff out," he said, adding that he doesn't oppose all social welfare programs, such as food stamps, however.

-- By Nicole Duran
For WisPolitics.com

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

 7:07 AM 

Quinnipiac: Walker almost doubles up nearest opponent in new Iowa GOP poll

Gov. Scott Walker is well ahead of the pack in Iowa, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Twenty-five percent of likely GOP caucus participants backed Walker with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul a distant second at 13 percent. Ben Carson was next at 11 percent, while Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush were at 10 percent each.

The poll found 57 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of Walker, while just 7 percent had an unfavorable view.

Also, only 8 percent of respondents said they were less likely to vote for Walker because he lacks a college degree, while 82 percent said it made no difference. The poll comes after a round of media attention on Walker leaving Marquette University before he graduated.

The survey of 623 likely Iowa Republican caucus participants was conducted Feb. 16-23 using live interviews via land lines and cell phones. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

-- By JR Ross

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

 12:26 PM 

PPP: Walker leads GOP field nationally for president

Gov. Scott Walker was the clear leader for the GOP presidential nomination in a new national survey of Republicans from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling.

Twenty-five percent of Republicans backed Walker, compared to 18 percent for Ben Carson, 17 percent for Jeb Bush and 10 percent for Mike Huckabee.

Walker’s support has more than doubled from January, when PPP found 11 percent of Republicans backed him.

PPP attributed Walker’s rise to his appeal to the most conservative voters in the GOP electorate. He leads among “very conservative” GOP voters with 37 percent, compared to 19 percent for Carson.

Bush led Walker 34-12 among moderate GOP voters, who were outnumbered better than 2-to-1 by those who identify as very conservative.

The survey of 316 GOP primary voters was conducted Friday through Sunday through automated phone interviews with some done over the Internet to reach those without landlines. The margin of error was plus or minus 5.5 percentage points. 

-- By JR Ross

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 11:30 AM 

Walker close to Cruz in Texas GOP poll

Gov. Scott Walker was neck-and-neck with Sen. Ted Cruz among Texas Republicans, according to a new poll from the University of Texas and Texas Tribune.

The survey found 20 percent of Republicans backed Cruz, while 19 percent supported Walker. In October, Cruz was backed by 27 percent of Republicans, while just 2 percent supported Walker.

In the latest poll, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson were tied at 9 percent each, while former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was at 8 percent. The poll of 547 Republicans had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.19 percentage points. It was conducted Feb. 6-15.

See more from the poll

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Monday, February 23, 2015

 11:45 AM 

Walker campaign raising money off reporter questions on Obama, Giuliani

Gov. Scott Walker's campaign is fundraising off what it's calling "pointless questions about whether and how much President Obama loves our country."

Appearing at the National Governors Association meeting this weekend in Washington, D.C., Walker made national headlines by refusing to say whether he believes Obama is a Christian or if he loves the country. Walker appeared at an event in Manhattan last week in which Rudy Giuliani said he does not "believe that the president loves America."

Reporters since have been asking Walker if he agreed with Giuliani's question, and a Washington Post reporter asked the guv if he believes Obama is a Christian. He answered he didn't know, though a spokeswoman later told the paper he was trying to make a point by not answering such questions and "Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian."

Walker's state campaign sent a fundraising request playing off the controversy.

"Your support will show the clueless and mindless journalistic herd that you know what matters most and that it is not the pointless minutiae that they are pushing," the appeal read.

The DNC slammed Walker for his answers over the weekend.

"Scott Walker had a simple test," said party spokeswoman Holly Shulman. "He could have risen above the fray, but he continues to flatly fail and instead push the same polarizing agenda and politics he has for years in Wisconsin. Today, Walker has proven himself once again to be unfit to lead."

Read the fundraising appeal

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

 12:12 PM 

Walker staffs up in New Hampshire

Gov. Scott Walker has added two people to the New Hampshire operations of his 527.

A Walker spokeswoman confirmed Walker has hired Andy Leach, a former New Hampshire GOP executive director, to be a senior adviser for Our American Revival.

Michael Bir, who was political director for the Michigan GOP and worked on the RNC's "Victory" program in Ohio for the 2010 and 2012 cycles, will lead day-to-day operations in New Hampshire.

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 10:53 AM 

New Iowa poll shows Walker on top

A new automated poll by Gravis Marketing had Gov. Scott Walker winning 24 percent of the GOP Iowa caucus vote -- a much better showing than he's had in other polls of Iowa voters.

Rand Paul and Jeb Bush were tied at 10 percent each.

The survey of 343 Republicans was conducted Feb. 12-13 and had a margin of error or plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was done for the conservative website Townhall.com.

In a head-to-head matchup with Hillary Clinton, Walker trailed 47-41. Clinton beat Bush 43-37 and Paul 44-39.

Those questions were posed to 969 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

See more from the poll

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 10:16 AM 

CBS poll: 59 percent of GOP voters nationally don't know enough about Walker to say if they'd vote for him

A new CBS News Poll found 59 percent of self-identified Republicans nationally don't know enough about Scott Walker to say if they'd vote for him.

Among the 11 GOP candidates the poll asked about, only Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was less known with 67 percent saying they didn't know enough about him.

Still, Walker was in the middle of the pack for those who said they'd consider him. Jeb Bush led the field with 49 percent saying they'd consider voting for him and 26 percent saying they would not. Mike Huckabee was next at 46-24.

Thirty percent of respondents said they'd consider voting for Walker, while 10 percent said they would not.

Chris Christie had the highest negatives with 43 percent of GOP voters saying they wouldn't consider voting for him and 28 percent saying they would.

-- By JR Ross

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 9:48 AM 

PPP has Bush, Walker tops among South Carolina Republicans

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker were neck-and-neck among GOP voters in South Carolina, according to a new poll from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling.

Bush was backed by 19 percent of respondents, followed by Walker at 18 percent. Home state Sen. Lindsey Graham was tied with Ben Carson for third at 13 percent, while Mike Huckabee was also in double digits at 12 percent.
Like other primary polls, PPP found Walker did well even though he's not very well known. Only 51 percent of voters had an opinion of him. Seventy-seven percent of South Carolina voters, for example, had an opinion of Bush.
The firm also head hypothetical head-to-head general election match ups between the Republicans and Dem Hillary Clinton. 

Huckabee was the strongest with a 49-41 lead over Clinton, while Walker topped her 46-42.

PPP surveyed 868 registered voters, including 525 GOP primary voters from Feb. 12-15. The margin of error for the overall poll is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points and plus or minus 4.3 percentage points for the GOP sample. Eighty percent of interviews were conducted over the phone, while 20 percent were done over the Internet to reach those who don't have landlines.

-- By JR Ross

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