What we saw in the conservative backlash against Mitt Romney’s temporary non-endorsement of Issue 2 is that the national conservative movement has made public support of Issue 2 in Ohio, which polls at 36% support presently (and pretty consistently), a litmus test for any ’12 GOP Presidential candidate to be considered viable. There can be no greater and more sound political strategy than mandating the ’12 GOP presidential candidates endorse an issue that is twenty to twenty-five points down in the polls right before the election in a battleground state that no Republican nominee has ever won the presidency without carrying. Right?
That’s the insanity of FreedomWorks. They’ve now forced Romney to name himself captain of a ship that was already sinking and declare he is duty-bound to go down with her. And for what? So they can look influential flexing their political muscle publicly to get Romney to flex his knee to bow to them? Is that worth risking Ohio being in play next year for the electoral college?
And then there’s State Treasurer Josh Mandel who, like Romney, refused to publicly take a position on SB 5 for a considerable time saying that as a federal candidate, he shouldn’t weigh in on State issues (even though his actual job is a statewide officeholder.) Mandel, too, eventually was browbeat to say that he supports Issue 2. Brown’s campaign was going to use that against Mandel regardless, I believe, but FreedomWorks’ and RedState’s public hissyfit over Romney makes it even easier for Brown to bring it up, and harder for Mandel to dismiss it as strictly a “state” issue when the conservative movement has declared Issue 2 to be a national one.
Both Romney and Mandel had been polling at least competitively against their respective Democratic incumbents. But that’s because there was no connection between them and Issue 2 in voters’ minds. Most Ohioans probably haven’t realized that Mandel taken a position on the Issue or associate that position with him, yet. I can’t help but notice that in all the “rallies” Building a Better Ohio has been holding Mandel has been conspicuously absent due to, well, other political campaign activities where he doesn’t have to stand shoulder to shoulder with John Kasich and Issue 2.
RedState and FreedomWorks this week helped lay the groundwork for tying Issue 2around the neck of the GOP’s best and only hopes in Ohio next year like a lodestone. And I cannot help but believe that Obama carries Ohio next year (Brown’s polling numbers are so strong, he was already largely favored to win re-election), the conservative movement is going to have to take a real look at the wisdom of their actions this week.
Issue 2 is so unpopular that nearly a third of Ohio Republicans oppose it. FreedomWorks and RedState has declared that the ’12 GOP nominee cannot represent them, or the independents who oppose Issue 2 as well. Romney has taken what should have been a simple political photo-op and turned it into a national political disaster. The base now distrusts him even more than ever. Meanwhile, independents and Republican-leaning Democrats (what used to be called “Reagan Democrats”) are wondering if they can support Romney despite his support on the grossly unpopular Issue 2 and John Kasich.
This is an unintended consequence that John Kasich and Shannon Jones has brought to their party in their zeal to pass the most partisan form of SB 5 they could manage. Near the end of the campaign, John Kasich promoted web videos telling his supporters that a vote for him was a vote to “stop Obama.” Instead, he may have single-handedly improved Obama’s chances in carrying the State, and the entire 2012 presidential election.