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Gov. Scott Walker has struggled in recent days to say where he stands on immigration, even after Republican rivals usurped him in presidential polls with forceful appeals to voter anger on the issue.

Walker appeared to complete a swift, sweeping transformation from immigration pragmatist to hard-liner last week at the Iowa State Fair. There, he endorsed key provisions of the immigration plan put forth by GOP frontrunner Donald Trump hours earlier.

But in the face of mounting questions about his immigration position, Walker backpedaled on his support for one of those provisions — ending birthright citizenship — in interviews over the weekend.

Trump is leading the GOP pack, in part, on the basis of his sharp opposition to illegal immigration. Experts say that suggests a strident stance by other Republican candidates on the issue would find favor with many GOP caucus-goers and primary voters.

But Walker’s wobbling on immigration could dog him, especially since he has been accused of flip-flopping on other topics. Should he commit to a hard-line immigration position, experts say it also might dampen his appeal in a general election.

Lara Brown, a professor of political management at George Washington University, said it’s clear Trump is driving the GOP conversation on immigration. For now, it may be politically appealing for other Republicans to mimic Trump’s positions, but Brown said trouble may await those who do.

“Any Republican that chases Trump too far down this rabbit hole will make themselves un-electable next fall,” Brown said.

At the state fair last week, Walker appeared to express support for building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Birthright citizenship divides GOP field

For the first time, Walker also indicated support for ending birthright citizenship — the right to citizenship for those born in the U.S., which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Both building the wall and ending birthright citizenship are in Trump’s immigration plan, which was released a day before Walker’s state fair remarks.

Both measures also would face practical hurdles to implement. Ending birthright citizenship would be extraordinarily difficult, since it likely would require amending the Constitution, experts say. Building a wall would cost tens of billions of dollars, experts say — and they disagree on how effectively it would deter illegal immigration.

Walker backtracked on birthright citizenship a few days later, telling CNBC’s John Harwood that he neither supports nor opposes ending the practice.

As recently as 2013, Walker said he supported creating a path to citizenship for those living in the U.S. illegally. It was a long-held position for Walker, who in 2002, as Milwaukee County executive, signed a resolution expressing support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Walker’s abrupt evolution on the issue began in March, as he began preparing a presidential run. He said he no longer supports a path to citizenship, telling Fox News host Chris Wallace that his reversal came after he talked to governors of U.S. border states.

Walker weighed in again in April, saying he favors lower levels of legal immigration to protect the jobs and wages of workers already in the U.S.

Then came his comments in Iowa last week, which followed polls the previous week that showed him tumbling in Iowa and in the national race, while Trump soared.

Asked if his repeated calls to secure the border would entail building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, Walker said: “It’s a combination of infrastructure – the wall itself – but you also have to have technology and personnel in support of that.”

NBC News on Monday, Aug. 17, asked Walker if he supports ending birthright citizenship.

“Yeah, absolutely, going forward,” Walker responded.

Hunt asked again to confirm Walker’s response.

“Yeah, to me it’s about enforcing the laws in this country,” Walker said, nodding.

Soon after that, Walker began backtracking. A Tuesday statement to the State Journal from Walker’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, appeared to distance Walker from his remarks a day earlier.

In the interview with Harwood Friday, Walker said he neither supports nor opposes ending birthright citizenship.

“I’m saying that until you secure the border and enforce the laws, any discussion about anything else is really looking past the very things we have to do,” Walker said.

Then Sunday, Walker told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he doesn’t support changing the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which likely would be necessary to end birthright citizenship.

Birthright citizenship has emerged as a surprising point of divergence for the Republican presidential field. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are among those joining the call to end it. Others, such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, both of Florida, have said it should remain in place.

A few lawmakers, such as former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rep. Steve King of Iowa, proposed ending birthright citizenship in years past.

Not Walker’s first shifton immigration

But Marc Rosenblum, an immigration expert at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., said until recently, it “never really had much leverage as a serious proposal.”

That’s because the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. Some conservatives, however, have argued the right doesn’t extend to those born to parents living in the U.S. illegally.

Amending the Constitution is a monumental task. The only method by which it has been done requires two-thirds approval of the amendment in the U.S. House and Senate, then ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Rosenblum said the constitutional amendment hurdle has been the main impediment to a broader discussion of ending birthright citizenship. But now that Trump has proposed it, others are following suit, he said.

“It has some sort of intuitive appeal” for opponents of illegal immigration, Rosenblum said. “It really resonates with the idea that immigrants are somehow gaming the system.”

Arizona law

This isn’t the first time Walker publicly zigzagged on immigration.

As a gubernatorial candidate in 2010, Walker spoke out against Arizona’s 2010 immigration law, which, among other provisions, requires state law enforcement officers to check a person’s immigration status during routine stops if there is reasonable suspicion that person is an illegal immigrant.

“In America, we don’t want our citizens getting pulled over because of how they look,” Walker said at the time.

Walker changed course days later, saying he would be comfortable signing a similar law in Wisconsin.

Walker changed his stance once more in 2012, saying he didn’t want the Wisconsin Legislature to pass such a bill because it would become a “huge distraction” from more pressing issues.

Immigration also isn’t the only major issue on which Walker has shifted this year. He changed his stance on the federal renewable fuel standard — a key issue in the early presidential state of Iowa — and on whether a right-to-work measure would become law in Wisconsin, and was widely perceived as changing his tone on abortion.

Brown said virtually every presidential candidate changes their stance on some issue. Where they find trouble, Brown added, is when they shift too far, too fast, or both.

“Unsuccessful candidates often make these shifts too quickly,” Brown said. “That’s how they get branded ‘flip-floppers.’”

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Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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