TERRACE PARK, Ohio (AP) - Republican presidential contender Mitt
Romney avoided weighing in Tuesday on Ohio ballot campaigns on
union bargaining and President Barack Obama's health care overhaul
as he focused on trying to win a state that he acknowledges is
Romney visited a Republican Party center in the Cincinnati
suburb of Terrace Park, where volunteers have been making phone
calls in support of Nov. 8 ballot issues to uphold legislation
restricting collective bargaining for public employees and on
whether to exempt Ohioans from the Obama plan's individual
insurance coverage mandate.
Romney told Republican officials he wasn't there to endorse
those issues, leaving them up to Ohioans. He instead used his visit
to promote his campaign with Republican activists. No Republican in
modern times has won the presidency without carrying Ohio.
"I know that Ohio plays kind of a special role in selecting the
president of the United States," Romney said. "If you don't win
Ohio, it's real hard to become president of the United States. So
if I'm fortunate enough to become our nominee, I intend to win Ohio
with your help."
In his speech in the small, packed center, Romney listed
"Obamacare" as one of the president's failed policies. He said he
could draw on his business experience to create jobs to ease
unemployment, while saying Obama has focused instead on an agenda
that includes expanding government.
"He doesn't understand we're a nation led by people, not led by
government," Romney said. "And you're here making calls to make
that message very clear: You want a state that's led by people, not
by government. That's the battle which is going on."
Romney's critics say his opposition to Obama's plan conflicts
with his enactment of a similar health insurance mandate in
Massachusetts when he was governor. Romney has said there are
important differences, including that state voters can get rid of
the plan if they want.
A state Democratic Party spokesman said Romney came to Ohio to
join Republican Gov. John Kasich's "attack on the middle class"
and suggested he backed away from Kasich-backed Issue 2, the
collective bargaining issue, because of polling showing growing
opposition in the state.
Spokesman Seth Bringman said Romney's visit to thank those
"working to take away" bargaining rights from police,
firefighters, teachers and nurses "makes it pretty clear where
Mitt Romney stands - at least for as much as Mitt Romney has been
clear on any issue."
Some conservative activists in southwest Ohio, a key Republican
area, are unenthused about, or opposed to, Romney, disliking his
health care plan and his former position in support of abortion
rights. Businessman Herman Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul have done
better than Romney in recent straw polls.
Ohio's presidential primary has been moved back to June 12,
making it less likely to be crucial in the GOP nomination race, but
Romney supporters said he is the Republican most likely to win the
Attorney Ken Heuck, who sported a "Romney `68" campaign button
from the candidate's late father George Romney's presidential
campaign, said he thinks Mitt Romney showed by winning election in
Massachusetts that he has broad appeal.
"You need somebody who can reach out to everyone," Heuck said.
Romney also got an endorsement Tuesday from Ohio Attorney
General and former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine. DeWine said in a
statement that Romney is the best candidate to beat Obama and that
he also "understands what it takes to create and maintain jobs."
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, and former state Attorney
General Betty Montgomery were among other Republicans endorsing