Walker pushes back on flip-flop accusations

05:14 - Source: CNN
Scott Walker talks immigration, abortion
CNN  — 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker predicts that he can finish first, second or third in all four of the first Republican presidential primary contests.

“I think we can place one, two or three in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. I think for any of the other candidates who are in the front or who are near the front of the pack, if they can’t go one two or three in each of these couple of early states, I think they face a real challenge,” Walker told CNN in an interview aboard his campaign Winnebago traveling across the first caucus state of Iowa.

“I think we can make the case not only here in Iowa, I think we can make a compelling case with a win in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. We’ve got great crowds in each of those states over the last week,” said Walker, who formally announced his presidential bid last Monday.

Walker has been ahead for months in most Iowa polls, ever since he gave a fiery, well-received speech at the state’s first GOP candidate cattle call this winter.

A significant number of Iowa Republican caucus goers tend to be quite socially conservative, and Walker has been emphasizing conservative positions on everything from same-sex marriage to abortion.

He also flat out changed his position on illegal immigration, going from being open to a path to citizenship, to opposing it.

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We read a quote from former Iowa GOP chair Craig Robinson, saying Walker makes former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney – who changed his position over time on abortion, illegal immigration and other issues – look like a “model of consistency.”

“He’s taking the lines form the opposition.” Walker said,

“I said there should be a path (to citizenship) years ago, when I talked about going forward with legal immigration; I didn’t talk about amnesty,” Walker said. “In fact, I said in that specific interview I opposed the gang of five, the measure that Marco Rubio and others proposed.”

On abortion, when Walker was locked in a tough re-election bid last year in the blue state of Wisconsin, he aired a television ad, speaking straight to camera, in which he talked about the decision being between a woman and her doctor, which is the language of the abortion rights movement.

“I said I’m pro-life but I can only imagine how difficult a decision must be for someone who’s thinking about ending their pregnancy. That’s why I support a law that provides more information to someone to make that decision,” he said. “The law still leaves the decision to the woman and her doctor. As for me, I want to look out for the health and safety of all citizens in my state.”

Walker said millions of dollars of attack ads where aired in his state over the law he signed, and his own advertisement was meant to clarify what the law did.

“Our point was the law that they were attacking us on merely provides more information,” Walker said.

On same-sex marriage, after not emphasizing it much in Wisconsin, and even suggesting it was settled in the state, he ended up giving one of the most critical statements after last month’s Supreme Court decision making it legal, saying it was a “grave mistake” and calling for a constitutional amendment giving states the right to decide.

And, he had opposed ethanol subsidies, very popular in corn rich Iowa, but now says he supports them.

On that, he insists his opposition was to state subsidies.

“I never said anything about federal. I said I opposed a mandate on ethanol in Wisconsin. I’ve kept that commitment I’ve kept my word on that,” he said. “What I’ve said here in Iowa is because it’s already in place, I thought that the renewable fuel standard should stay in place as a transition is given and they should phase it out within two years.”

Walker aides insist that on all of these issues, except illegal immigration, what opponents call flip-flops are just evolved positions based on the changing times, or the fact that he is now answering questions about federal policy, not just about his home state in Wisconsin.

“I would argue on any of those other issues that you brought up my position is as consistent today as it was all throughout that process,” said Walker. “At town hall meetings, they ask me about that. When people hear the facts, as opposed to the spin, they say, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’”