Romney backs labor reform law in Ohio
A day after again declining to back a very reasonable ballot measure in Ohio that would limit the collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers and getting under the sking of many grassroots conservatives, Mitt Romney changed his tune yesterday:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Wednesday strongly endorsed an antiunion law in Ohio after declining to do so while visiting the Buckeye State a day earlier.
On a campaign stop here, Romney maintained that he does in fact support Republican Gov. John Kasich and his efforts to retain a law that limits collective bargaining by Ohio’s public employee unions. A state ballot measure backed by labor would repeal the law. “I’m sorry if I created any confusion in that regard.,” Romney said on Wednesday.
The former Massachusetts governor maintained on Wednesday that when he dodged questions about the collective bargaining ballot measure in Ohio, he thought he was sidestepping a question about another issue on the state ballot—a challenge to the individual health care insurance mandate.
He said, “I’m sorry if I created any confusion in that regard. I fully support Gov. Kasich—I think it’s called Question 2 in Ohio. I fully support that. Actually, on my website, back as early as April, I laid out Question 2 and Gov. Kasich’s efforts to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio in the ways he’s described, so I fully support that.
“But what I was referring to is that I know there are other ballot questions there in Ohio and I wasn’t taking a position on those. One of them, for instance, relates to health care and mandates. I’ve said that that should be up to individual states. I, of course, took my state in one direction, they might go into a different direction. I don’t want to tell them what they ought to do in that regard. That’s up to them.”
Over at Business Insider, Michael Brendan Dougherty explains that Romney got caught in an internal battle inside the Ohio GOP between Gov. John Kasich and state party Chairman Kevin DeWine (a cousin of former Sen. Mike DeWine):
GOP chairman Kevin DeWine, who did not support Kasich’s gubernatorial campaign, brought Mitt Romney, displaying his political clout. But apparently no one informed Mitt Romney what the Ohio ballot initiatives were about or whether he had a position on them. When asked yesterday if he supported Issue 2, Mitt Romney punted. “I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney said. “Those are up to the people of Ohio.”
“It would have been a pretty simple thing to make sure Romney knew that he was going to a phone bank where volunteers were making calls on behalf of Issue 2 and that earlier in the year he endorsed Issue 2,” said one Republican with close ties to the governor.
Instead it turned into a disaster for the Romney campaign. “Every call, every text, every conversation from people associated with the Romney campaign yesterday was ‘What the hell happened yesterday?’… And those headlines where it says, ‘Romney distances himself from Kasich, those headlines aren’t good for John Kasich,” said one source in an interview with Business Insider. The source went on to say that “Governor Romney was not served well here.”
Dougherty notes that Kasich’s people aren’t buying the story. But it seems entirely plausible that Romney did get caught in this and really wasn’t again flipping his position on an issue. But even if that were the case, it certainly doesn’t help that perception. After all, this stuff is inside baseball and all GOP voters are going to hear is that Romney bailed on Kasich and came back once conservatives cried foul.
But with Romney taking a hardline populist tone in his campaign — particularly toward China, whom he once defended against the Obama Administration — in a state that is dependent on manufacturing, the story that Romney left conservatives hanging out to dry on this issue is just as easy to believe.