Scott Walker immigration flip shows how Trump is reshaping 2016 race

The rise of Donald Trump in the Republican presidential race has coincided with a fall for Scott Walker. Now, Governor Walker is shifting strongly to the right on immigration.

Charlie Neibergall/AP
Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a visit to the Iowa State Fair Monday in Des Moines.

What’s the matter with Scott Walker? Right now his presidential campaign is trending downward. Sure, it’s possible he can recover – we’ve got months to go before actual voting starts. It’s also possible that he’s hit a metaphorical iceberg and is taking on water fast.

Maybe the Wisconsin governor is a victim of the rise of Donald Trump. His slip is correlated with Mr. Trump’s rise, particularly in the key early voting state of Iowa. He’s scrambling to match Trump’s appeal to GOP voters eager for a nonestablishment candidate, a slot he’d hoped to fill.

The magnetic force of Trumpism even appears to have affected Governor Walker’s policy positions. Asked about Trump’s new immigration plan on Monday, Walker appeared to endorse many of its provisions, saying it was “similar” to his own proposals.

Does that mean Walker supports ending birthright citizenship, that part of the Constitution which guarantees that every child born in the United States is a citizen? That’s part of Trump’s outline, after all. On this, Walker answered “yeah,” but has since waffled.

Whether he’s for birthright citizenship or not, Walker’s tough immigration stance is a long way from his previous embrace of comprehensive reform. On this issue he’s swung all the way from the GOP’s moderate wing to its far right.

Of course, he’s not the only Republican hopeful who’ll get buffeted in this manner by Trumpismo. It’s a problem all the old top tier candidates, such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, now face. Trump’s immigration plan has reshaped that issue for the race in an instant. Will that happen with other issues?

“Maybe this is the Trump tornado at work. Anyone not firmly grounded, confident in his own views and willing to withstand the storm gets tossed about like a rag doll,” writes conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin in a post blasting Walker’s reversal.

Today’s new CNN/ORC poll highlights Walker’s problems. He’s in single digits, tied for fourth, at 7.7 percent. (Trump leads, with 24 percent.)

Yes, that’s just one poll. But it’s about where he stands in the RealClearPolitics major survey rolling average. And the trend is sharply downward: On July 31, Walker was second in the RCP average, with 13.7 percent.

Iowa is Walker’s real numbers problem. He’s staked his candidacy on winning the Iowa caucuses, and using the subsequent momentum to sling shot forward toward the South Carolina primary. Iowa’s a neighbor of Walker’s home state, and his unvarnished conservatism should do well there. He was the leader in Iowa polls for most of this year.

You’ll notice the “was.” Trump shot past him in August. Walker’s now third in Iowa, with 11 percent in the RCP average of state polls. He’s behind Trump and Ben Carson.

Walker’s giving a tough speech on health care today, in which he’ll call out D.C. Republicans for their failure to put a bill repealing Obamacare on the president’s desk. Maybe that’s the sort of antiestablishment talk that will right his ship and win back voters attracted to Trump’s take-no-prisoners style.

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