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Romney Steps in Ohio Labor Fight, Endorses Collective-Bargaining Limits

FAIRFAX, Va. | Mitt Romney made an about-face Wednesday during a campaign stop for Virginia Republicans and wholeheartedly endorsed an Ohio ballot measure that would restrict the right for public employees to bargain collectively.

“With regards to question 2, which is the collective bargaining question, I am 110 percent behind Governor Kasich,” Romney said.

The ballot measure, Issue 2, is a referendum on Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich’s SB 5, which would prevent the state’s public employees, including firefighters and teachers, from bargaining for pensions and health insurance.

During a campaign stop in Ohio Tuesday, Romney wouldn’t say if he was for the repeal of SB 5 or not.

“I’m sorry if I created any confusion in that regard. I fully support Governor Kasich, I think it’s called question 2 in Ohio. Fully support that,” Romney said in Virginia at a press availability where he stood with Gov. Bob McDonnell. “I support question 2 and Governor Kasich’s effort to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio in the ways he’s described.”

Romney claimed that when asked about the ballot issue on Tuesday, he did not want to endorse any of the other ballot issues there, like Issue 3, which deals with a precarious political issue for Romney: health care mandates at the state level.

As David Chalian noted in Wednesday’s Morning Line, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign had attacked Romney for not taking a stand. Chalian wrote:

“Whatever the reasoning, Romney provided yet another opening for his opponents to portray him as a politician who lacks conviction and waffles from position-to-position.

“Mitt Romney’s finger-in-the-wind politics continued today when he refused to support right-to-work reforms signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich — reforms Romney supported in June. Americans are tired of politicians who change their beliefs to match public opinion polls,” said Rick Perry’s campaign communications director, Ray Sullivan.”

The embrace of the ballot measure, which recent polls show a majority of Ohioans oppose, may come back a general election issue next year in the battleground state should Romney become the GOP nominee.

A Quinnipiac University poll out Tuesday showed 57 percent of Ohioians oppose Issue 2.

But this is the GOP nomination season, and Ohio Republicans support Issue 2 by a 59-32 percent according to that poll.

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