Terrace Park, OH — Campaigning on Tuesday in the Buckeye State, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declined to weigh in on a controversial state ballot measure that calls for the repeal of a new law that limits collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Romney visited a Republican call center in Terrace Park, where volunteers were contacting voters and urging them to vote in favor of keeping the law on the books. The former Massachusetts governor declined to take position on the issue, saying he was unfamiliar with the details.
“I’m not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney told a crowd outside the call center. “Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the effort of the governor to rein in the scale of government.”
It was a distinct change in tone for Romney, who took an aggressive stance in support of a similar anti-union measure in Wisconsin earlier this year. In February, he weighed in in support of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bill to limit collective-bargaining rights for public-employee unions in that state. “Liberal, Big Government interests are fighting efforts to rein in out-of-control public-employee pay and benefits in Wisconsin,” Romney said then. “It is critical that we stand with the Wisconsin GOP as it stands up for the rights of the taxpayer.”
A new 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. Beyond limiting collective-bargaining rights for unions, the law requires public employees to pay at least 15 percent of their insurance premiums and 10 percent of their pensions.
Kevin DeWine, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said Romney’s visit was unrelated to any ballot initiatives. “It was mostly just a chance to say ‘thank you’ to the grassroots volunteers for the work they’re doing this year and next,” he said.
The campaign of one of Romney’s main rivals for the Republican nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, lambasted him for failing to strongly endorse the Ohio law. Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said in a statement, “Mitt Romney’s finger-in-the-wind politics continued today when he refused to support right-to-work reforms signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich.... Americans are tired of politicians who change their beliefs to match public-opinion polls.”
Romney made brief remarks at the call center but took no questions. “I know that Ohio plays kind of a special role, and you all know that, of selecting the president of the United States,” he said. “If you don’t win Ohio, it’s real hard to become president of the United States. And so if I’m fortunate enough to become our nominee, I intend to win Ohio with your help.”
DeWine said, “Ohio will be ground zero for the Republican presidential race, and history has said -- and has proven -- that no one has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. We think that’s the case again this year.
“Governor Romney has a good team in place in Ohio. There’s a great deal of support for him. I have no idea at this point in time who would win a primary in the state of Ohio because I think there’s a lot of candidates who are appealing to the hearts and minds of Republican voters in the state of Ohio,” DeWine said.
While in Ohio, Romney secured the endorsement of freshman Rep. Jim Renacci. “I am very proud today to be the first Ohio congressman to endorse Governor Mitt Romney,” Renacci told the volunteers at the call center. “We need a person in the White House who understands what it takes to make a payroll.”