Romney Appears to Waver on Ohio Anti-Union Rules

Fairfax, Virginia – Mitt Romney’s critics are quick to accuse him of being a flip-flopper on important issues, part of an effort by Democrats and his Republican rivals to establish him as a politician without a core.

Mr. Romney gave them new ammunition on Wednesday by appearing to waffle on whether he supports tough anti-union legislation in Ohio that is up for a vote on a referendum in that state.

Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had supported the union rules, imposed by the state’s Republican governor, John R. Kasich, several months ago. Then on Tuesday, in an appearance in the state, he suggested that he would remain neutral on the referendum. And on Wednesday he apologized for “confusion” and said he supported Mr. Kasich and the rules “110 percent.”

The result of the 24 hours of back and forth was a renewed push by Mr. Romney’s political opponents to highlight what they call his routine repositioning on the issues.

The campaign of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas quickly attacked via Twitter, calling on users of the social media site to use the hashtag #flipflopmitt.

“With Mitt Romney finally showing a willingness to flip-flop on his liberal positions, the Perry Truth Team is encouraging Twitter users to suggest other liberal positions Mitt Romney should flip-flop on by using the hashtag #flipflopmitt,” the campaign said in a statement.

Earlier, Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for Mr. Perry, fired off a statement accusing Mr. Romney of “finger-in-the-wind politics” and saying that “when you try to stand on both sides of an issue, you stand for nothing.”

Democrats also piled on.

“We can hardly keep up,” said Chris Redfern, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. “He doesn’t stand for anything other than the headline he reads in the morning newspaper. Even this is a doozy for the serial flip-flopper Mitt Romney.”

Questions about Mr. Romney’s willingness to change his positions have dogged him since he began seeking the presidency more than five years ago. Rivals have focused in particular on what they say are his changing positions on abortion, immigration, taxes and what they call “Romneycare,” the health care overhaul he ushered in as governor of Massachusetts.

In his second bid for the White House, Mr. Romney has generally been more disciplined, pointing to his book “No Apology” as the definitive explanation of his policy positions.

But Mr. Romney’s remarks about the Ohio union legislation were a reminder that he remained vulnerable to incidents that seemed to reinforce the established narrative.

The issue bubbled up Tuesday in Ohio, where Mr. Romney said: “I’m not speaking about the particular ballot issues. Those are up to the people of Ohio, but I certainly support the effort of the governor to rein in the scale of government.”

Critics quickly pointed out that Mr. Romney had just finished visiting a Republican call center where volunteers were urging voters to support the referendum, known as Issue 2. And several noted that Mr. Romney made the remarks as polls showed that the anti-union measure appeared to be losing steam with voters in Ohio, a crucial general election swing state.

By Wednesday, Mr. Romney had reaffirmed his support for Mr. Kasich and the anti-union legislation. During a stop at a local Republican headquarters in Virginia, Mr. Romney said that his refusal to take a position on Tuesday was meant to be directed at other Ohio ballot initiatives that he was unfamiliar with.

“I’m sorry if I created any confusion in that regard,” Mr. Romney told a crush of reporters as he stood next to Virginia Republicans. “I fully support Governor Kasich’s, I think it’s called Question 2 in Ohio. Fully support that.”

“I know there are other ballot initiatives out there in Ohio, and I wasn’t taking a position on those,” he said.

Mr. Romney was not the only candidate who appeared be waffling on something. Mr. Perry changed position during the course of this week on whether he believed President Obama had really been born in the United States.

In two interviews, Mr. Perry suggested that he questioned the president’s place of birth. Later, on Wednesday, he backed off that assertion, telling a Florida reporter that he had “no doubt” about Mr. Obama’s citizenship.

Mr. Perry’s campaign also raised the possibility Wednesday that it might curtail its participation in what has become a proliferation of Republican debates. Mark Miner, a spokesman, said, “We will look at each debate individually and then make a decision.”

Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from New York.