Romney strategy maybe fatal
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has developed a habit that might just be politically fatal.
For the past several years, he's been sticking his index finger in the air to determine his best course of action.
For example, in Ohio this week — on an issue important to the conservative Republican base — Romney put that finger in the wind. And he all but froze the dang thing off. It's now down to a stub.
Romney declined to take a stand on Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which requires state employees to contribute 10 percent of their pay to their pensions and curtails public-union bargaining over health plans.
While private-sector workers contribute to their health and pension plans, daring to ask public workers to do so is seen as an outrage among the Democrats. Organized labor is naturally working mightily against the Ohio bill, as it did against a similar version in Wisconsin.
And so Romney showed up Tuesday at an Ohio phone bank that supports SB 5. Conservative Gov. John Kasich signed the law in March, and Democrats are supporting a November referendum to repeal it.
You'd think Romney would understand that by showing up at a conservative phone bank, he was engaging the issue. He was asked about it and, according to CNN, he boldly declined comment.
How pathetic. Romney's spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, responded in emails to reporters, insisting that "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."
In other words, Romney punted rather than lead. What makes it worse, Romney had already been on record supporting the Kasich measure.
But Ohio polls show that independents are leaning against the Kasich plan, and Romney, finger in the air as always, was most likely seeking trendy favor there with his silence.
It's not the kind of thing that demonstrates core principles and beliefs, and it set off a predictable firestorm of criticism from conservatives. They pointed out that during the summer, Romney was quite enthusiastic about getting involved in supporting right-to-work laws in New Hampshire.
"So he won't weigh in on an issue in Ohio, but he'll take a stand in New Hampshire?" conservative Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller told me Wednesday. "The big problem many conservatives have with Mitt Romney is that he's taken both sides of every issue that is important to us."
It's a long list, including everything from mandated health care to taxes.
And later, in Virginia on Wednesday, Romney tried to warm what remained of his stubby digit, but the damage was done.
Romney said in Virginia that he was "110 percent" behind Kasich and SB 5, and added, "I'm sorry if I created any confusion there."
No, Mr. Romney, there is no confusion. Not any longer.
Romney has tried to fight the perception, fueled by the equally flawed big-government Texas Gov. Rick Perry (a former Democrat) and others, that with Romney there is no conservatism at his core.
Though he's tried to fight it mightily, Romney has lost that battle with his gutless Ohio trip. And what he said in Virginia only underscores the vacuum within.
...Like Bill Clinton his core belief is in maintaining his political viability. When he responded to Perry's criticism of his hiring illegals Romney let slip that he told the contractor he was running for office and he could not be hiring illegals for that reason, not because it was wrong. Perhaps it is why some Republican leaders like him, but he will be challenged on his authenticity by candidates like Perry.