Jeb Bush and Scott Walker haven't yet officially announced their 2016 presidential campaigns, but the two men and their camps are taking increasing jabs at each as they emerge as rival front-runners for the Republican nomination.
The early arguments are a likely prediction of how their campaigns may start to play out.
Walker is already taking early steps to cast himself as a new approach for the Republican Party, reports The Washington Post
, warning against "looking to the past" in apparent taunts about Bush's pedigree as son of one president and brother to another.
But Bush's supporters are firing back at the Wisconsin governor, complaining about a lack of scrutiny on Walker's record as his popularity begins to grow. On Tuesday, longtime Bush supporter Al Cardenas
, an attorney from Miami, drew fire on Twitter with a comment about Walker's changing positions, tweeting:
Cardenas, who co-chairs a bipartisan task force on immigration reform, told the Post that he did not send his tweet on Bush's behalf alone.
"Walker was an ally when we started this journey," Cardenas said. "I intend to call out anyone, not just him, who have changed their stripes on this issue to suit a presidential campaign run."
And another Bush supporter, Ana Navarro, told the Post in an email that Walker reminded her of former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, claiming the "flip-flop label hasn’t yet stuck to Walker because, unlike Romney, until now he’s had a low profile nationally."
Walker at one point had backed comprehensive immigration reform, but told Fox News
earlier this month that his view has changed.
"I don’t believe in amnesty," Walker said. "We need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works — a legal immigration system that works."
In addition, last weekend at the Iowa Ag Summit, Walker announced full support for ethanol subsidies, a new stance that, among other claims, lead The Iowa Republican
to brand him in a op-ed as a "flip-flopper."
"By changing his position on renewable fuels and immigration, it raises questions about what Walker actually believes," said editor Craig Robinson.
Meanwhile, Bush is already bringing in millions of dollars in donations in his push to align himself with the party's establishment, while Walker is aiming his efforts — as a newcomer who is not already a part of Washington — at the nation's grass-roots supporters.
Even their early trips are underscoring the differences in their looming campaigns, the Post reports.
Bush will meet on Friday in New Hampshire with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and will go to a house party in Dover, and also plans private fundraisers for two lawmakers and to meet privately with potential supporters for his own campaign.
Walker will be in the early primary state this weekend as well, but plans to attend a training session for grass-roots activists in Concord and then to meet with supporters privately on Saturday.
Former New Hampshire state Sen. Jim Luther, who says he backs Walker, complained about one of Bush's fundraisers, held for Rep. Frank Guinta and costing $5,000 a person.
"That’s Washington, D.C., prices, and it really shows that this is the way Bush is carrying himself," Luther said.
But Bush has held fundraisers for Walker himself, headlining a $250-per-person fundraiser in 2010 for the future governor in Milwaukee and endorsing his campaign.
Two years later, though, Bush, having praised Walker after his recall election win, also expressed growing concerns about the modern Republican Party and its "orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement," reports the Post.
Soon after, Walker said he disagreed with Bush, but called him a friend.
Still, Bush is refusing to directly criticize Walker or other possible rivals, saying the 2016 nomination can't be won by dividing the party.
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