The hard-to-execute flip-flop-flip

Mitt Romney created quite a mess for himself yesterday, showing up at a Republican call center in Ohio, rallying GOP activists fighting to protect a union-busting bill, and then refusing to endorse the measure they were working on. Today, at a campaign event in Virginia, the former governor tried to “clarify” matters.

“Oh, I’m sorry if I created any confusion in that regard. I fully support Gov. Kasich’s — I think it’s called Question 2 in Ohio. Fully support … Gov. Kasich’s effort to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio in the ways he’s described. […]

“But what I was referring to was I know there were other ballot questions there in Ohio and I wasn’t taking a position on those. One of them for instance, relates to healthcare and mandates, I’ve said that 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. I don’t want to tell them what I think they ought to do in that regard, that’s up to them. So, it was with regards to that issue that I didn’t want to make a commitment.”

Look, that’s a fairly straightforward attempt at damage control, but it’s not true.

Romney visited a Republican campaign office where workers are trying to rally support for two measures that Ohioans will vote on in two weeks — one restricts collective-bargaining rights, the other is a state measure intended to override the federal health care law on mandates. Romney was asked for his position on these two hot-button controversies. After repeated questions from reporters — the former governor clearly didn’t want to talk about this — he said:

“I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues. 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.” [emphasis added]

The “two ballot initiatives” included the one on collective bargaining. If he “fully supports” it, Romney had a chance to say so. Reporters were practically begging him to give his position. Romney said this morning was “referring” to something else when he said, “I am not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives,” but no one can or should believe this, since it’s transparent nonsense.

Romney was simply reluctant to take a stand in support of an unpopular anti-worker measure that’s likely to lose in two weeks. So, he went from supporting the measure, to being agnostic on it, to supporting it again, hoping the right will stop yelling at him.

There’s no reason this should make Romney’s problem go away.