Photo: (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney was used as a pawn in a feud between two Republican bigshots in Ohio yesterday, a political operative tells us.The incident led to an awkward public statement by Romney that caused a firestorm this morning.
The Ohio feud that led to the incident is between Republican Governor John Kasich and state GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine.
Yesterday, our source says, state GOP chairman Dewine took Romney to an event organised by Governor Kasich — and used him to try to damage Kasich. The incident turned into an embarrassment for both Mitt Romney and John Kasich. As of this morning Romney is trying do damage control.
We got the full story from sources in Ohio. Here is what happened:
The Ohio State GOP escorted Mitt Romney to Cincinnati for what seemed like a simple campaign appearance. Romney was brought to a phone bank where conservative activists were calling citizens to support John Kasich’s reforms to Ohio’s public employee unions (the reforms cut benefits and the union’s ability to negotiate on health-care issues). The repeal of these reforms has been put on the ballot in Ohio and is polling well–it’s called “Issue 2.”
“This is Kasich’s baby,” said one Republican with close ties to the governor. “He put his chief of staff in charge of it. They are doing all the fundraising. Kasich’s men have tried to bring in national figures to support the cause.” Mike Huckabee recently appeared in state to rally activists to the cause. The governor’s team hopes to bring in Sean Hannity to do the same.
But 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.”
“It would have been a pretty simple thing to make sure Romney knew that he was going to a phone bank where volunteers were making calls on behalf of Issue 2 and that earlier in the year he endorsed Issue 2,” said one Republican with close ties to the governor.
Instead it turned into a disaster for the Romney campaign. “Every call, every text, every conversation from people associated with the Romney campaign yesterday was ‘What the hell happened yesterday?’… And those headlines where it says, ‘Romney distances himself from Kasich, those headlines aren’t good for John Kasich,” said one source in an interview with Business Insider. The source went on to say that “Governor Romney was not served well here.”
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.
After reporters found that Mitt Romney’s Facebook page in June expressed support for Kasich and his reforms, the Romney team went on the offensive to “clarify” their position this morning.
Christopher Maloney, spokesman for the Ohio GOP dismissed the accusations of skulduggery on behalf of the state party. “These charges from unnamed sources are wildly inaccurate and patently false,” he told Business Insider, “It makes no sense that the state party would distance themselves from these initiatives. … “If anything this event proves we can turn out, that Romney can rally people to this cause.”
Kasich’s side disagrees.
“They are covering their arse,” says the operative with ties to Kasich, “The politicos in Ohio are pissed about what happened. It’s not a good showing for him… Romney lost a lot of support in Ohio. Donors too, we have donors that wrote $1 million checks to this campaign [on Issue 2] and are Romney supporters. I don’t think they are happy how this went down.”
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