In Ohio, Mitt Romney Punts on Health Care and Union Rights

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 25 2011 2:25 PM

In Ohio, Mitt Romney Punts on Health Care and Union Rights

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CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE- OCTOBER 24: Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets the crowd outside the New Hampshire Statehouse after filing the necessary paperwork to be on the New Hampshire primary ballot October 24, 2011 at in Concord, New Hampshire. Romney also picked up the endorsement of former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Mitt Romney stopped in Ohio today, where polls show him competitive with Herman Cain in the March 2012 primary. He stopped by a Republican phone bank where volunteers were drumming up support for two ballot measures -- one of them a national cause celebre for the left. Issue 2, if passed, would affirm the collective bargaining reform Republicans pushed through this year. The measure is on the ballot because unions want to beat it, and overturn the law, and polling suggests that they can. Issue 3, if passed, would prevent Ohio from participating in any health care mandate -- federal, state, whatever.

Romney was at one of the nerve centers for the campaign to pass the Issues. CNN's Peter Hamby asked a simple question: Did he support them?

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"I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues," said Romney. "Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to reign 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."

Is that a "no?" This might benefit from a mathematical analysis. Romney supports "the Republican Party's efforts here." At the moment, the GOP's efforts include a push for Issues 2 and 3. By the transitive property, Romney supports the Issues! But he won't explicitly say so. "Gov. Romney believes that the citizens of states should be able to make decisions about important matters of policy that affect their states on their own," explained his spox Andrea Saul in an e-mail.

This isn't what Tea Partiers want to hear. FreedomWorks, Dick Armey's grassroots group, has been working Ohio hard. They've put up a campaign site (YesForJobs.com), opened nine distribution centers for volunteers, and pushed out more than 120,000 door hangers and 18,000 yard signs, all "yes" on 2 and 3.

"I’m not happy with Romney about his silence on Issues 2 and 3," said Brendan Steinhauser, FreedomWorks's director of state campaigns, in an e-mail, "but then again, I’m not surprised. He doesn’t believe in what we believe in –- nor is he willing to fight for these ideas. We are working VERY hard in Ohio for these campaigns and he is only interested in his own ambition to be president. Kasich = Courage and Romney = Empty Suit."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.