Mitt Romney's "Incredible Moment??? In Ohio


Ohio governor John Kasich is fighting to preserve a set of collective-bargaining reforms that would save Ohio taxpayers from predatory labor unions, whose benefits have plunged the state $45 billion into debt.  Big Labor, working with its usual accomplices in the Democrat Party, has arranged a referendum next week to repeal Kasich’s reforms.

Here are Kasich’s reforms, as summarized by the Washington Examiner:

Kasich’s new law: 1) bans government unions from bargaining over health insurance, 2) requires that all government union members pay at least 10% of their wages toward their pensions, 3) ends seniority rights as the sole factor in layoffs, 4) replaces seniority pay raises with merit pay raises, 5) bans government unions from striking, and 6) makes government union dues voluntary. But government unions would still be able to bargain about many other topics including pay and working conditions.

Of course, well-heeled union bosses – among the biggest fat-cat millionaires you will never hear criticized at your friendly neighborhood anti-capitalist drum circle – cannot allow even the most sensible reforms to pass.  The War on Taxpayers may occasionally quiet down while forces are rearranged, but we’re a long way from a cease-fire.

Fortunately, Kasich has some strong allies, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  The editors would like to see a few adjustments, but urge “Ohioans more vested in pragmatism than partisanship” to support the Governor’s reforms and “break Ohio away from an unsustainable status quo.”

But one ally Governor Kasich can’t count on is Mitt Romney.

The presidential candidate swung by a Republican phone bank working to support Kasich’s reforms… but refused to actually endorse the referendum.  Reporting on the scene via Twitter, CNN’s Peter Hamby called it an “incredible moment in politics.”

Hamby asked Romney point-blank if he supported the Kasich reforms.  “I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney replied.  “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.”

Romney’s camp tried for damage control by claiming he “believes that the citizens of states should be able to make decisions about important matters of policy that affect their states on their own,” but that position apparently was not operative when Romney endorsed New Hampshire’s right-to-work legislation just a few months ago.  Here’s how the Concord Monitor reported the event in August:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a group in Concord this morning that if he voted here, he would urge state lawmakers and the governor “to do whatever is necessary to make New Hampshire a right-to-work state.”

State lawmakers passed legislation this year to prevent unions from collecting fees from non-members, but Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill. House Speaker William O’Brien set a date to override the veto but then postponed the vote.

Speaking today at Northeast Delta Dental, Romney leant his support to the Republican effort to force the policy into law. The former governor of Massachusetts said that over the past decade, states with right-to-work laws have added 3 million jobs while states without such laws have lost 1 million jobs.

“It’s pretty clear those states that have right-to-work legislation are able to add employment,” Romney said.

Romney is not running for Super Governor of Massachusetts or Health Care Czar.  It’s one thing for a President to embrace federalism and refuse to force legislation on a state… but quite another to withhold unqualified public support from a Republican governor fighting to protect vital reforms.  When we’ve reached the level of true federalism, which is a long way in the future, it might be more acceptable to claim that state affairs are no business of a national political leader. 

As it stands, the states are too firmly wired into the sparking and smoking federal grid to treat matters on the scale of Ohio’s ballot initiatives as picayune matters of local interest.  If the AFL-CIO gets its way, Ohio’s state finances will probably collapse sometime during the Romney Administration, and President Romney will not be allowed to hold no opinion about cleaning up the wreckage.

Shouldn’t Romney have become “terribly familiar” with these ballot issues before visiting Ohio on the eve of the referendum, and prepared a more robust endorsement, especially if he expects Ohioans to vote for him in the presidential race?  Doesn’t he understand the gravity of our national struggle to reform out-of-control unions?  Does he think the AFL-CIO will give him a pass during the presidential race because they remember he sat on the sidelines while they were fighting to tear Ohio apart? 

This was not a good time for Romney to present himself as a nominal Republican who can’t be troubled with the Party’s adventures in various little out-of-the-way states, and thought he could just drop by a building full of committed volunteers to pat them on the heads and pass out Romney 2012 bumper stickers.

Update: Full meltdown for Romney as Politico takes a trip through the wayback machine, and discovers Romney supported the Kasich measures on his Facebook page in June:

“My friends in Ohio are fighting to defend crucial reforms that the state has put in place to limit the power of union bosses and keep taxes low,” Romney wrote on his Facebook page in June. “I stand with John R. Kasich and Ohio’s leaders as they take on this important fight to get control of government spending. Please visit for more information.”