Romney Says He Backs Ohio Measure Limiting Union Power

Romney Says He Backs Ohio Measure Limiting Union Power

By Scott Conroy - October 26, 2011

FAIRFAX, Va. -- A day after declining to take a position on an Ohio ballot measure that would curtail collective bargaining rights for public employees in the state, Mitt Romney on Wednesday said that he does back the effort.

"I'm sorry if I created any confusion in that regard," Romney said during a visit to a county Republican headquarters here with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell by his side. "I fully support Gov. Kasich's -- I think it's called Question 2 -- in Ohio. I fully support that."

If voters approve the measure next month, it will keep in place a bill Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law that limits collective bargaining for public sector unions and forces government union workers to contribute 10 percent of their earnings toward their pensions, among other provisions.

During a trip to the Buckeye State on Monday, Romney visited an Ohio GOP phone bank outside Cincinnati where volunteers were trying to generate support for the measure and other ballot questions voters will weigh in on.

But according to CNN, Romney declined to take a position on Question 2. "I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues," Romney told reporters at the time. "Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to rein in the scale of government. I am not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives. But I am certainly supportive of the Republican Party's efforts here."

Romney had originally lent his support to the referendum measure back in June, but his refusal Monday to take a position on the hot-button issue earned him the ire of conservative activists.

Some of Romney’s GOP rivals, including Rick Perry, were quick to seize on his sudden reluctance to do so. The Texas governor tweeted on Monday: "Ohio Gov John Kasich is right to protect and create jobs. Stand with him to fight union excesses. Help make Ohio more competitive!!"

After placing some phone calls to voters in advance of Virginia’s impending state legislative elections, Romney took pains to suggest that his support for the Question 2 ballot initiative -- which polls show is likely to fail -- had never wavered.

“What I was referring to is I know there are other ballot questions there in Ohio, and I wasn’t taking a position on those,” he said. “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 may want to go in a different direction. I don’t want to tell them what I think they ought to do in that regard. That’s up to them.”

Romney said that he was “110 percent” behind Kasich on the collective bargaining issue.

On Monday night, the former Massachusetts governor hosted a campaign fundraiser in the wealthy Washington suburb of McLean, Va., which McDonnell attended.

Romney called McDonnell a “terrific governor” but declined to say whether he would consider him to be a running mate should he win the Republican nomination.

“It would be presumptuous for anyone in my position -- so far from the nomination -- to start thinking about who might be a vice president,” Romney said. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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