Mitt Romney’s Buckeye blowback

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

On Tuesday, Mitt Romney made national news by punting on “Issue 2” — Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s government union reform referendum. By Wednesday, he was enthusiastically championing the collective bargaining measure.

But for some Ohio grassroots conservatives and establishment Republicans I talked to, the damage was done.

“It’s a good thing for Gov. Romney that Ohio just moved its presidential primary back to June,” said Robert Klaffky, a prominent Ohio lobbyist who has close ties to Kasich. “It will give him more time to get the lay of the land in the state and avoid future gaffes which risk alienating the base.”

Other conservatives were less diplomatic. Jason Rink, a founding member of the Ohio Liberty Council, who was involved in the initial push to get the Healthcare Freedom Amendment on the ballot in Ohio, emailed me this:

I believe his recent statement on Issue 2 will hurt Romney in the Ohio primary because it confirms the notion that he is a politician without principles.  He knew enough about Issue 2 to endorse it in June.  So what has changed?  The only explanation that makes sense is that he believes endorsing it now will hurt him in the general election with the teachers, police, firefighters, etc.  He’s trying to remain vague on the issue in an attempt to win the Republican primary, but not blow his chance of winning the general election.

As Rink noted, this, of course, stings because it underscores a preexisting negative narrative about Romney — that he has no strong philosophical moorings — and that he’s a flip-flopper.