Mike Lee "Impressed" After Meeting Scott Walker

Mike Lee "Impressed" After Meeting Scott Walker
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Sen. Mike Lee “went in a little doubtful and came away impressed” when he met Tuesday morning with likely presidential candidate Scott Walker, said an aide to Lee who was briefed by the Utah senator on the meeting.

The meeting was part of a Capitol Hill charm offensive by Walker, who in speeches has dissed Washington as “68 square miles surrounded by reality,” but who will need to strengthen his ties with Republican lawmakers in advance of his expected bid for the White House.

The Wisconsin governor and Lee met one-on-one over breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club, a Republican hangout on the House side of the Hill, shortly after Walker fielded questions from a large group of House Republicans in another room upstairs.

Lee, a prominent conservative whose support will likely be in high demand among Republican candidates for president, hoped to gauge where Walker stands on some issues that have caused him to stumble in recent months, including immigration reform and ethanol subsidies.

On the former, “Walker really downplayed his past views on it and said it was an issue he hadn’t really thought about, especially when he was Milwaukee county executive,” Lee’s aide said.

Walker has drawn some scrutiny for his stance on immigration reform, which has appeared to shift more to the right as he has geared up to seek the GOP nomination in 2016. As county executive, Walker signed a resolution pushing for immigration reform in Congress, which would have included a pathway to citizenship. In 2013, Walker told a Wisconsin newspaper that a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants “makes sense.” But he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace in March, “My view has changed.”

Walker assured Lee on Tuesday that “he does not support a Gang of Eight-type path to citizenship,” the aide said, referring to a failed Senate immigration reform proposal.

Walker also sought to assuage conservatives’ fears that he supports the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates biofuels in gasoline, telling Lee that “he didn’t want to end it immediately, but that he wanted to phase it out.” In Iowa in March, Walker told an audience of farmers, who overwhelmingly support the RFS, that he was "willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard.” But Walker later walked-back that remark.

Although Lee came away from the meeting impressed with Walker, who currently ranks second to Jeb Bush in the RCP average of Republican nomination polls, it’s unclear whether he will pick a horse in the GOP primary. Lee is currently working with another party contender, Sen. Marco Rubio, on a tax reform plan in the Senate, which Lee brought up with Walker on Tuesday.

When Walker asked when and if Lee would throw his support behind a candidate, Lee “said he would not be endorsing anytime soon,” the aide said.

Rebecca Berg is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at rberg@realclearpolitics.com.


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