Mitt Romney's Ohio primary win Tuesday night may end up being the critical step in eventually netting him the GOP presidential nomination. But it also raised a series of questions about how he will be able to compete in a general election there.
Exit polls showed that the former Massachusetts governor had trouble with voters concerned about the economy -- the very topic that he argues is his strong suit. That the election remained a squeaker despite Romney's distinct spending advantage over his nearest competitor, former Sen. Rick Santorum, raised additional doubts about his ability to connect with voters.
In an interview with The Huffington Post the day before Ohioans hit the polls, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) made another valid point pertaining to Romney's general election chances: he campaigned in the state without ever being attacked on some vulnerable points.
"We haven't even started really talking in Ohio about Mitt Romney having a Swiss bank account and Mitt Romney putting a portion of his wealth, having it invested in the Cayman Island," said Strickland. "I mean, trust me, that's not going to go over well in Ohio. Why would any person who aspired to be president, as Mitt Romney has for probably much of his life, open a Swiss bank account? What does that say about his political judgment and what does it say about his commitment to the United States of America?"
"You know, this country enabled him to become hugely wealthy," Strickland added. "You would think that he would have enough appreciation for the opportunities this country has given him to at least have his bank accounts in an American institution in America. That may not be a big deal for a lot of people. I know Ohio pretty well. You start talking about Swiss bank accounts and the Cayman Islands and I think a lot of Ohioans, including a lot of independents and perhaps even some Republicans, are going to say 'Wait a minute, is this the kind of guy we want leading our country and looking out for us?' I think these are just incredible flaws that the Democrats can use effectively against this guy."
The Romney campaign did not respond to Strickland's comments. But in the past it has argued that criticism of Romney's wealth is tantamount to class warfare.
That may be enough for a good chunk of the electorate. It certainly helps explain why Romney's primary opponents never brought up the issue during the days leading up to Super Tuesday. But in a state where anger towards the idea of moving jobs -- or money -- overseas still motivates people, the going bet is that independent voters will find it problematic.
UPDATE: Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, emails over the following response.
President Obama and his allies are desperate to distract from his abysmal economic record, so they are continuing their strategy to ‘kill Romney.’ If they spent half as much time trying to create jobs as they do spreading falsehoods about Mitt Romney, there might be fewer than 24 million Americans struggling for work.