Romney: I really, really support Gov. Kasich's collective bargaining reforms; Update: Romney set up?

Mitt Romney raised eyebrows yesterday by his refusal to take an explicit position on Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s effort to limit the ability of public-sector employee unions to engage in collective bargaining. Efforts by Kasich and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to clean up state budgets and to bust the monopolies of public-sector unions have been particularly controversial, both attracting and alienating voters. For Romney, then, to stand squarely in support of Kasich’s reforms yesterday — especially given his previously expressed support for the law — would have been a particularly principled thing for Romney to do.

Well, lower the eyebrows, people, because he expressed unequivocal support today:

“I’m sorry if I created any confusion in that regard,” Romney said, according to POLITICO’s Reid Epstein. “I fully support [Republican] Gov. [John] Kasich’s — I think it’s called Question 2. I fully support that.”

Romney said in Ohio that he wouldn’t be addressing “particular ballot issues.” In Virginia today, he said he meant he wouldn’t be addressing ballot issues other than the labor law.

“What I was referring to is I know there are other ballot questions there in Ohio and I wasn’t taking a position on those,” he said, per Reid. “With regard to Question 2, which is the collective bargaining question, I am 110 percent behind Gov. Kasich in support of that.”

And, 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didn’t do anything to dispel the popular notion of him as a flipper — but, given that Kasich’s law looks likely to be repealed, I’d say Romney’s support for it today suggests that, on this, at least, he has actual conviction.

Update (Allahpundit): Was it a set up? Business Insider thinks so:

GOP chairman Kevin DeWine, who did not support Kasich’s gubernatorial campaign, brought Mitt Romney, displaying his political clout. But apparently no one informed Mitt Romney what the Ohio ballot initiatives were about or whether he had a position on them. When asked yesterday if he supported Issue 2, Mitt Romney punted. “I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney said, “Those are up to the people of Ohio.”…

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.