CONCORD, N.H. -- While acknowledging that he changed his views on immigration, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Saturday it's "ridiculous" to call him a flip-flopper.
Walker has recently been criticized for changing his positions on right-to-work legislation and abortion, but he maintained that his views have been "consistent."
On immigration, he offered this explanation: "I think people want strong leaders and they want leaders that listen to the people."
Walker made his debut as a potential presidential contender in the first-in-the-country primary state this weekend, meeting with local businesspeople and elected officials, including former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
The two-time Wisconsin governor, already known for surviving a recall election after placing limits on unions in his home state, became a favorite with conservative voters in another early voting state when he appeared at the Iowa Freedom Summit earlier this year in Des Moines. But until now, voters here have had little chance to see him in person.
In remarks at a New Hampshire GOP event billed as a "grassroots training," Walker laid out the three-point platform that he has been taking across the country. He wove personal anecdotes throughout his speech, mentioning his time washing dishes and flipping burgers at McDonald's and speaking about his two college-aged sons.
"When I was a kid growing up in that small town of Delavan," he said, as he spoke about how he would reform government assistance programs. "I don't ever remember one of my classmates saying to me, 'Hey, Scott, someday, when we grow up, I want to become dependent on the government.'"
His message was well-received, and during a short Q&A, Walker said his reception in the state and others across the country has made him feel "pretty strong."
He was asked directly for his position on Common Core and the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, to which former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave his support Friday. Walker, who has made jabs at Bush in the past, declined to draw a comparison and instead stayed on message about transferring federal money and decision-making to states.
"I believe in high standards set at the local level," he said. But he didn't hesitate to criticize President Obama and his administration, especially when it came to national security.
"We've got a president that draws a line in the sand and somehow allows people to cross it," he said. "A president who calls ISIS the JV squad, who calls Yemen a success story, who calls Iran a place we can do business with, whose former secretary of state gave Russia a reset button."