During a visit to New Hampshire last weekend, Scott Walker was on the defensive, fielding questions and criticisms that he has flip-flopped on several key issues, including immigration and abortion.
"This is one where we listened to the people all across the country, particularly border governors who saw how this president messed that up and that's an issue where I think people want leaders who are willing to listen to the people on that," the Wisconsin governor told reporters, conceding that his stance on immigration has changed, reports CNN
When not defending his abortion and immigration views, Walker, who is seen as one of the Republican Party's leading presidential candidates, has remained on message and drawing contrasts with another front-runner, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
"Jeb's a good man. You're not going to hear me speak ill of Jeb ... I just think voters are going to look at this and say, 'if we're running against Hillary Clinton, we'll need a name from the future — not a name from the past — to win,' " he told The Tampa Bay Times
The greatest contrast between the two candidates, however, may be how each approaches controversial policy issues like immigration and Common Core education standards.
While Walker says he is willing to shift his views to reflect the will of the people, Bush has refused to back away from his support of Common Core or a more moderate approach to immigration.
In a February address to the conservative Club for Growth's annual retreat, Bush remained a loyal supporter of Common Core, despite the fact many conservative and tea party members vociferously oppose the federal standards.
"I'm not backing down from something that is a core belief. Are we all just supposed to cower because, at the moment, people are upset about something? No way, no how," he told the audience, reports The Wall Street Journal
The refusal to pander, as well as an unwavering politeness are traits which were developed early in his career.
"He was unfailingly polite and respectful. That's just the way all those Bush kids were. It made the rest of us look bad," Jim Bayless, a longtime friend, tells The Texas Tribune
Bush's best friend from his days growing up in Texas, Rob Kerr, remembers one occasion where fans at a Houston Astros game began heckling a slumping centerfielder Jimmy Wynn. Rather than join in, "Jeb sort of stood up and let the fans know they were not being very loyal," Kerr said.
That loyalty is reflected in his unfailing commitment to positions that are widely unpopular with the conservative base of the Republican primary, namely the Common Core education standards and immigration.
On his first trip to New Hampshire since he announced he was launching an exploratory committee, the former Florida governor told a voter that he was "all in" when was asked about his views on Common Core.
"Yes, it's controversial. But I've learned, though, that because something is controversial ... you don't abandon your core beliefs. You go persuade people, as I'm trying to do right now," said Bush, according to KVVU-TV
He also stood firm on immigration, telling a questioner that the "position I have, the view that I have," he said, "is the one that a path that legal status is more than enough to allow people to come out from the shadows and that's what they want," according to CBS News
Larry Sabato, a political analyst and director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, sees Bush's refusal to pander to a crowd as a component of a political strategy, rather than as a matter of conviction.
"I don't know if it's authenticity so much as it is a calculation that a hard-core, comprehensive conservative will have a hard time winning [on a national level]. You're going to have much higher rates of participation by minorities and young people and other groups that tend to favor Democrats," he tells The Texas Tribune.
Sabato posits that Bush could be trying to frame himself "as a kinder, gentler Republican, to quote his father, or a compassionate conservative, to quote his brother."
Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin
says Bush's choice not "to pander" may be an asset or a disadvantage.
"He actually is not pandering. On immigration and Common Core, he is explaining his positions (which is not what critics claim) so that voters know he is for border security first and against federal intervention in schools. But he is not doing an about-face on either. Whether that will hurt him or make him seem principled is an open question," she wrote after Bush visited Iowa earlier this month.
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