A day after he refused to endorse an Ohio ballot measure that limits public employee union rights, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Wednesday that he is “110 percent” behind the effort.
While he was in Ohio on Tuesday, Romney seemed to distance himself from anti-union measures that have lost popularity in recent months. Campaigning a day later, the former Massachusetts governor told reporters that he supports a ballot measure known as Issue Two aimed at restricting collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers such as teachers, firefighters and police officers.
“I'm sorry if I created any confusion in that regard. I fully support Gov. (John) Kasich's -- I think it's called Question Two in Ohio. Fully support that,” Romney said, referring to the Issue Two ballot initiative, after visiting a local GOP office in Fairfax County, Va. “Actually, on my website, I think back as early as April, I laid out that I support Question Two and Gov. Kasich's effort to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio.”
In June, Romney praised Kasich's efforts to “limit the power of union bosses and keep taxes low.”
“I stand with John R. Kasich and Ohio's leaders as they take on this important fight to get control of government spending,” Romney wrote on his Facebook account then.
Romney waffled this week though; his rivals criticized him for not supporting the measure, which has seen its popularity falter.
“As a true conservative, I stand with Gov. Kasich in promoting S.B.5 for fiscal responsibility and job creation in Ohio,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “Gov. Kasich and the Republican leadership of Ohio are to be commended for their efforts.” Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman told ABC News that Romney failed to show leadership.
“This is a time when if you are going to be president of the United States, you show a little presidential leadership. That's by taking a position and leading out -- sometimes there is a risk associated with taking a position, but that's all part of leadership,” he said.
On Wednesday, Romney tried to answer the criticism.
“I know there are other ballot questions in Ohio. I wasn't taking a position on those,” Romney said after meeting with volunteers. “I am 110 percent behind Gov. Kasich and in support of that question.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern called it “an epic re-reversal.”
“Such lack of character is a slap in the face to Ohioans and says everything you need to know about the serial flip-flopper Mitt Romney,” Redfern said.
A Quinnipiac University poll this week showed the anti-union law is unpopular with voters; 57 percent oppose it in that poll.
Romney's arm's-length stance seemed to reflect that on Tuesday.
“I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney said during an appearance near Cincinnati. “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.”
And on Wednesday, he still sidestepped questions about a separate ballot measure that would exempt Ohioans from President Barack Obama requirement that individuals have health insurance.
“I've said 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,” Romney said. “I don't want to tell them what I think they ought to do in that regard.”