In a trip fraught with presidential politics, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday toured the U.S.-Mexico border that is likely to play a starring role in the 2016 contest.
The carefully managed visit to the Rio Grande Valley came amid a new round of scrutiny of the Wisconsin governor's immigration stance, which the likely GOP presidential candidate has admitted has shifted. Reports surfaced Thursday that suggested Walker had changed his position again, setting the stage for a helicopter ride Friday morning with Abbott overshadowed by the controversy.
Abbott and Walker each tweeted photos from their meet-up but kept journalists at a distance, according to reports from the scene. Walker did not join his fellow Republican governor for a news conference in Weslaco after the tour.
Appearing later Friday on Fox News, Abbott said Walker first told him he would like to see the border while they were at a "governor's conference" in Washington, D.C. Before Walker decided to tag along, Abbott was already scheduled to be in the region Friday for a briefing by the Department of Public Safety.
Abbott has been careful to avoid the appearance of playing favorites in a presidential contest that could include several candidates with ties to Texas. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Abbott's protege, announced Monday he was running, while former Gov. Rick Perry, Abbott's predecessor, is expected to take the plunge in May or June.
Asked on Fox News whether the trip was his way of signaling support for Walker, Abbott reiterated the role he has so far expressed an interest in playing with regard to 2016.
"This was my way of working, as I'm constantly doing, to try to educate officials across the entire country," he told host Neil Cavuto. "You know, I wish Barack Obama would come down here."
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walker had recently told a private audience in New Hampshire he supported a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. The remarks, which Walker aides disputed, appeared to go against what he said March 1 — that his "view has changed" and he longer supported a pathway to citizenship.
Abbott declined to wade into the flap Friday.
"Look, I don't know what all he's said in the past," Abbott told Cavuto. "What I do know is the more we get people down to the border, the more that this becomes less of an abstract concept and the more they can realize the reality of it, the more they will see the first thing we have to do is to step up and secure our border."
Abbott and Walker are scheduled to meet again Saturday evening at the Harris County Republican Party's Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.