The Campaign Spot

Mitt vs. ‘Rick Rombachcaingrichsman’

In the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt . . .

Oh Wait, You Meant THOSE Ohio Ballot Initiatives?

A reader writes in, “I hope you write something about Mitt Romney’s clarification today on his ‘Bold, Groundbreaking Form of Hesitation.’ It took him 12 hours (was it even that long??) to say that of course he backed John Kasich’s law, as he stated earlier this year. His position is consistent. I tend to believe him when he says it was a misunderstanding of the questions being posed him, but I’m already planning on voting for him.”

The latest from Romney:

“I fully support Gov. Kasich’s Question 2 in Ohio,” Romney said at a campaign stop in Virginia Wednesday. “I’m sorry if I created any confusion there.” Romney said he did not want to weigh in on the other Ohio ballot issues and meant to express his lack of familiarity with those issues on Tuesday.

Before reading Romney’s response, I had Tweeted the imaginary response, “Oh, you mean THOSE reforms enacted by Kasich and Ohio Republicans? Oh, I love those like bonbons.” Turns out, I wasn’t that far off.

Michael Brendan Dougherty offers some interesting inside chatter on infighting in the Ohio Republican Party: “The Ohio feud that led to the incident is between Republican Governor John Kasich and state GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine. . . . Two sources with ties to Governor Kasich suggested that the Romney appearance was designed to humiliate Ohio’s governor. Specifically, they suggested, Romney was advised not to take a side on this unpopular issue. ’I can tell you that those [DeWine’s] sentiments [about Issue 2] have been made clear to governor Romney. The opinion of those close to the [Ohio] chairman is that Romney should stay as far away from this thing as possible. That it is unpopular,’ said the experienced operative.”

But in the end, the new details aren’t as exculpatory as one would hope. Even if Romney’s being told, moments before his public appearance, that the referenda are likely to pass and Kasich’s reforms rescinded, the man ultimately responsible for what comes out of Mitt Romney’s mouth is Mitt Romney. What did he think the phone bank in front of him was calling voters about? Why couldn’t he just have reverted to a default, “I stand with John Kasich” or “I think that tough reforms are needed, even if they’re controversial or unpopular, to prevent harder times down the road” or some other generic and vague statement of support?

For what it’s worth, Bytor at Third Base Politics isn’t quite sure this story adds up: “It’s not the best kept secret that Kevin DeWine and Kasich aren’t close, to put it kindly. It’s also known that current Secretary of State Jon Husted wants to be governor, and that DeWine is fully behind him. But if there is animosity towards Kasich, what does it gain DeWine by embarrassing him now? If he damages Kasich, he also damages the Republican party in Ohio and hurts Husted’s chances in the future. Would DeWine really do that to satisfy a personal grudge of some kind?”

Ann Althouse: “It’s good for Romney to stand aloof from Ohio’s overheated collective bargaining mess, especially if the side he’d have to take is about to acquire the stink of losing. But do that standing somewhere where aloofness looks prettier.”

Tina Korbe: “As it turns out, he probably had good reason to ignore the ‘other ballot questions’ in Ohio — because one of them happened to be an initiative to prevent the government from requiring individuals to purchase health insurance. Why raise the specter of Romneycare himself? Still, even with this clarification, folks still say Romney’s resistance yesterday reinforces his spineless image. Certainly, it didn’t do anything to dispel the popular notion of him as a flipper — but, given that Kasich’s law looks likely to be repealed, I’d say Romney’s support for it today suggests that, on this, at least, he has actual conviction.”

A couple of readers aren’t happy with my Serpentor-like plan to genetically engineer a Republican candidate with all of the field’s strengths and none of the candidates’ flaws. This candidate, Rick Rombachcaingrichsman, would enter the race as a heavy favorite to win Pennsylvania, Texas, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Georgia, Georgia again, Utah, and Beijing, just for starters.

Would you prefer I lied to you? Should we all close our eyes and pretend that Romneycare isn’t a problem for Mitt? That Perry’s debate performances have been strong and reassuring? That Herman Cain seems to have a deep and well-rounded expertise about a wide variety of issues?

Look, the vast majority of us will fall in line by the convention, I suspect. We don’t need to fall in love with a candidate — that’s what the other side did last time. None of these guys (or the gal) is running for Messiah or Munificent Sun-God. We’re looking for a guy who can undo a lot of bad decisions, cut government, reassure America’s businesses and entrepreneurial class that the federal government won’t be mucking around with regulations that increase energy and health-care costs, or increasing taxes, and that we are on the verge of enjoying a Harding-esque “return to normalcy” — an era before both Obamacare and bailouts, before government-run General Motors and random government employees commenting on what they find in your luggage.

It’s worth remembering that for all of his troubles, Romney’s still in a heck of a strong spot: “Mitt Romney is on the top or tied for the lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in new surveys in the first four states to vote in next year’s primary and caucus calendar. According to CNN/Time/ORC International polls released Wednesday, the former Massachusetts governor continues to be the overwhelming front-runner in New Hampshire, holds a lead over the other GOP presidential candidates in Florida, and is basically tied for the top spot with businessman Herman Cain in Iowa and South Carolina.”