Political Insiders Disappointed by Your Lack of Interest in Ohio's Union Vote

Ohioans will vote in two weeks whether to keep a law curbing union power on the books, and a lot of people wish the country were paying more attention to the election -- reportersTea Partiersunions -- except for maybe Mitt Romney.

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Ohioans will vote in two weeks whether to keep a law curbing union power on the books, and a lot of people wish the country were paying more attention to the election -- reporters, Tea Partiers, unions -- except maybe Mitt Romney. When we noted that pundits see every single special election as a "test" for President Obama, we didn't expect one of those pundits to offer such a succinct illustration of this phenomenon as we saw in reference to a coming vote over Ohio's law to curb collective bargaining. NBC News' First Read writes:

The best -- and most meaningful -- statewide race of 2011 wasn't in West Virginia (where Democrats narrowly won the gubernatorial contest). Or in Louisiana (where Gov. Bobby Jindal cruised to re-election). And it won’t be in Kentucky (where Democrats are poised for a blowout gubernatorial win). Or in Mississippi (where Republicans are expected to hold the governor’s mansion). Rather, the 2011 race with the biggest political implications is taking place here in the Buckeye State, where voters two weeks from today will decide the fate of Gov. John Kasich’s (R) law curbing collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers.

Their sentiment may or may not have something to do with the lead First Reader's travel plans: "NBC’s Chuck Todd moderates 7:00 pm ET debate on Issue 2." But Todd may just get his wish thanks to Romney who is now catching flak for not taking it seriously enough to commit -- right now at least -- to one side of the referendum, which if passed, would keep in place a law passed earlier this year that ended unions' ability to bargain for health insurance.

"I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues," Romney told CNN's Peter Hamby. "Those are up to the people of Ohio." The candidate's spokesman emailed Slate's Dave Weigel, saying, "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."

Tea Partiers are furious. FreedomWorks tweets, "Dear @MittRomney: Do you endorse union tyranny? Why won't you support Governor Kasich?" RedState's Erick Erickson thinks the lack of attention to Romney's noncommittment is all dumb Rick Perry's fault. "Hey Rick Perry, if you weren’t trying to have fun with birtherism, this would probably be a much bigger media story today ... This is a huge freaking deal," Erickson writes. Washington Examiner's Conn Carroll writes, "If Romney can't endorse this common sense reform at the state level, why should conservatives believe he will fight against government unions at the federal level."
Romney's refusal to take a position looked worse once National Review's Katrina Trinko pointed out that in August, the candidate endorsed a right-to-work law in New Hampshire. Then things got even worse for Romney when Politico's Jonathan Martin noticed that Romney endorsed the Ohio law in June. Romney wrote on Facebook, "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 ... I stand with John R. Kasich and Ohio's leaders as they take on this important fight to get control of government spending. " Martin says maybe Romney doesn't want to talk about the vote because the other measure on the ballot would block the attempts by the government at all levels to make people buy health insurance. "That, of course, hits close to home for Romney."
The debate Todd is moderating will be broadcast across Ohio. The guys debating are former Rep. Dennis Eckart and state Sen. Keith Faber -- they couldn't get a sitting congressman to talk about it. But not to worry, the issue will likely get a national hearing in the next Republican presidential primary debate, as Romney has given his rivals yet another opportunity to cast him as a flip-flopper.
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