Did Kevin DeWine Really Use Mitt Romney to Embarrass John Kasich?

By now you’ve surely heard about Mitt Romney’s famous visit to Ohio on Tuesday. First, he visited a call center where volunteers were doing work for Issues 2 and 3, but then declined to endorse the issues. Conservatives around the country jumped on him. Then it was revealed that he actually did endorse Issue 2 over the summer. Not only did this reinforce his dreaded “flip flop” weakness, Rick Perry jumped at the opportunity to embarrass Romney by declaring he fully supported Issue 2 and stands by John Kasich.

The next morning, Romney came out and said that, yes, he DOES indeed support, er…“question 2”, again strengthening the flip-flopper argument against him. Both conservatives and Democrats, including our old buddy ODP Chairman Chris Redfern, have had a field day with this. The entire visit was a disaster.

Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine, Mitt Romney, Ohio Governor John Kasich

But then a day later, Michael Brendan Dougherty from Business Insider claims that Romney was set up and used by Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine.

Yesterday, our source says, state GOP chairman Dewine took Romney to an event organized by Governor Kasich — and used him to try to damage Kasich.

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.

It’s not the best kept secret that Kevin DeWine and Kasich aren’t close, to put it kindly. It’s also known that current Secretary of State Jon Husted wants to be governor, and that DeWine is fully behind him. But if there is animosity towards Kasich, what does it gain DeWine by embarrassing him now? If he damages Kasich, he also damages the Republican party in Ohio and hurts Husted’s chances in the future. Would DeWine really do that to satisfy a personal grudge of some kind?

Color me skeptical. However, this wouldn’t be the first time DeWine gave Ohio conservatives reason to distrust him. We’ve previously discussed how DeWine orchestrated the entry of his second cousin, former Senator Mike DeWine, into the primary race for AG last year. (Not so coincidentally, Mike DeWine endorsed Romney yesterday.)

Lets assume that DeWine did not use Romney as a pawn to try to embarrass Kasich. In that case, his handling of Romney yesterday was just incompetence. Why did he take him to the call center? What was he thinking? Issue 3 is the proposed Constitutional amendment that would make mandatory participation in a health system illegal in Ohio. Health systems like…Romneycare!

Also, he clearly either,

  1. Didn’t tell Romney what issues the call center was supporting, leaving Romney clearly unprepared for the eventual questions that would come.
  2. Told Romney to stay away from endorsing Issues 2 and/or 3, but then…took him to a call center supporting Issues 2 and 3 as a campaign event for Romney?

I asked this question at the very beginning of my post yesterday: “So…why did did Mitt Romney visit that call center in Cincinnati again?” Whichever of the two happened, it smacks of ineptitude. And it led to Romney’s very bad day.

But that doesn’t excuse Romney, either. Does he really need to be reminded whether he previously supported Issues 2 and 3 or not? Does he really need to be told what position to take? Did he really come to Ohio and not prepare himself by finding out what possible political issues the entire state has been battling over for months? Like…oh, I don’t know, ISSUE 2, for instance!?

And if he did know what Issue 2 was about, why in the world did he agree to go to a call center supporting Issue 2 if he wasn’t prepared to endorse and support it!?

Ace of Spades asks similar questions.

And still further: Even assuming the general contours of the situation here are accurate, why didn’t Romney take an actual position supporting Kasich anyway?

Or, if the situation was too sketchy, why not avoid the call center altogether? Why go to the call center at all if he’d been advised by Kevin DeWine to punt on issue important to the serving governor John Kasich?

If this is mostly true, Kevin DeWine should be evicted from office. This is cowardly, sneaky crap. If he’s in love with the Public Employee Unions he should say so publicly instead of playing passive-aggressive games behind the scenes.

Ace is right. If Kevin DeWine or his team really set this up to damage Kasich, he absolutely needs to go. I’m still not convinced, however, and we’ll probably never know for sure anyway. Whether Romney was a “pawn” or not, he probably isn’t real pleased with DeWine right now. But he also has himself to blame.

In the end, it did raise national awareness of what is going on here in Ohio with Issue 2. By getting national Republicans, including Romney, to go on record in support of Issue 2’s reasonable reforms, the whole kerfuffle may end up bringing more Republicans home to the YES side. If indeed this was an attempt to damage Kasich, it may turn out to have the opposite effect.

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