FAIRFAX, Va.—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.
A day earlier, Romney declined to address the collective-bargaining issue. “I’m not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney told a crowd outside a call center in Terrace Park, Ohio, where GOP volunteers were working to stop repeal. “Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the effort of the governor to rein in the scale of government.”
Romney was immediately attacked by the rival campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, which accused him of “finger-in-the-wind politics” for failing to come out strongly in support of Kasich and efforts to keep the law on the books.
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.”
Labor unions in Ohio are leading a campaign to repeal the antiunion law, which Kasich signed in the spring after it passed the state legislature. Among its provisions, the law bars public employees from going on strike, limits the subjects of negotiations with management, and requires workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday showed that a majority of Ohio voters, 57 percent, favor repealing the law. Among Ohio Republicans, however, 59 percent say the law should be retained. The Perry campaign accused Romney of bending his “beliefs to match public opinion polls.”