Scott Walker shifts to Republican primary culture-warrior mode

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker listens to his introduction from the side of the stage at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4MRCP

Oh, look. Social conservative Scott Walker is back. The Wisconsin governor had downplayed his far-right positions on issues like abortion and marriage equality in the run-up to the 2014 general election, but now that he’s positioning himself for the 2016 Republican primary, it’s a different story. In a private meeting with Iowa Republicans last month:

…  he highlighted his early support for a “personhood amendment,” which defines life as beginning at conception and would effectively prohibit all abortions and some methods of birth control.

In speeches and statements, he has similarly emphasized his social conservative identity. It’s not a Mitt Romney-style flip-flop—Walker has consistently said he was against abortion, and certainly his actions as governor have reflected that—but when he’s in a general election campaign, Walker dramatically shifts his emphasis. For instance:

A few weeks before the November election, in an interview with The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the governor sidestepped questions about his earlier opposition to abortion, and declined four times to answer directly when asked if abortion should be prohibited after 20 weeks — a position he had previously embraced. He also declined to restate his earlier opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest. […]
Asked about same-sex marriage, he told The Hill, a Washington publication, “I don’t talk about it at all.” As for defunding Planned Parenthood, he dismissed the issue as something that “gets some activists worked up, but taxpayers say, ‘What’s the big deal there?’ ”

Needless to say, this is not going to fly in Iowa and South Carolina for a Republican primary, as his early campaigning makes clear. This may end up being where Walker runs into trouble. It’s one thing to deflect and downplay as a state-level candidate, but as a Republican presidential primary candidate, he is likely to have to say enough extreme things in public that it will be very difficult for him to slip out of should he end up as his party’s presidential nominee. Walker has shown time and time again that he’s a slippery little sucker, but he’s looking at a new level of difficulty over the next 20 months.

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