Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney waded into dangerous territory Tuesday when he swung by an Ohio phone bank that was rallying support for the state's besieged anti-union bill -- and refused to say if he backed it.
After being questioned by reporters about his position on Senate Bill 5, which would severely limit collective bargaining rights for public employees, Romney declined to comment, reports CNN.
"I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues," he said. "Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to rein in the scale of government." Romney said he wasn't "terribly familiar" with the ballot initiatives, instead offering vague support for the efforts of the state's Republican party.
It's not that surprising Romney was hesitant to endorse S.B. 5; the legislation is deeply unpopular and it appears likely it will be repealed at the statewide referendum on Nov. 8. A poll released Tuesday found that 57 percent of Ohio voters want to repeal the legislation, while only 32 percent want to uphold it.
But unfortunately for the former Mass. governor, his past support of the bill is already on the record. As Politico reports, Romney took to his Facebook page over the summer, urging readers to visit a website dedicated to saving S.B. 5 from repeal.
"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," Romney wrote on his Facebook page in June. "I stand with John R. Kasich and Ohio's leaders as they take on this important fight to get control of government spending. Please visit www.BetterOhio.org for more information."
In a statement to CNN, Perry said:
"As a true conservative, I stand with Gov. Kasich in promoting S.B.5 for fiscal responsibility and job creation in Ohio," Perry said. "Gov. Kasich and the Republican leadership of Ohio are to be commended for their efforts."
Added Perry, "My record as a pro-jobs governor is clear and you don't have to wonder where I stand."
According to Daily Caller contributor Matt Lewis, a Perry spokesperson called Romney's comments a continuation of his "finger-in-the-wind politics."
The battle over union rights is reaching broiling temperatures as the date of the referendum vote draws close. Supporters and opponents of the bill have been waging a full-scale war to win votes, spending millions on advertising.
Voters will decide on Nov. 8 whether the legislation is upheld or repealed.