Terrace Park, Ohio (CNN) -Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stepped into the middle of the charged battle over organized labor in Ohio on Tuesday, but he avoided weighing in on the contentious legislation that would dramatically limit the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions.
The former Massachusetts governor visited an Ohio Republican Party phone bank in the suburbs of Cincinnati, where GOP volunteers were contacting voters about two hot-button measures that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
One of them, Issue 2, would ratify Senate Bill 5 - the controversial legislation backed by Republican Gov. John Kasich that curbs collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Another measure, Issue 3, would amend the state constitution to forbid the state and federal government from imposing a mandate to buy health insurance.
Romney expressed generic support for Kasich's efforts to curtail union rights, but he would not say whether he supports or opposes the specific measures.
"I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues," Romney said, only after repeated questions from reporters. "Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to reign in the scale of government. I am not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives. But I am certainly supportive of the Republican Party's efforts here."
Both topics are tricky for the Romney campaign.
He is no stranger to health insurance mandates, having passed one of his own in 2006 while governor of Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, the Republican-backed union legislation remains deeply unpopular in the state, which is all but certain to be a swing state once again in 2012.
A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday showed that Ohio voters support the repeal of Senate Bill 5 by a 57-32 margin. And crucially, independent voters in Ohio favor repealing the legislation by a 52-36 margin.
It was no surprise, then, that the Romney campaign did not advertise the Ohio visit to reporters.
And Kasich, whose disapproval rating stands at 54% according to Quinnipiac, was not in attendance.
Romney arrived mid-morning with a traveling aide and shook hands with local Republicans before speaking to volunteers inside the building.
Though he was surrounded by brightly-colored signs urging Ohioans to vote yes on Issue 2 and Issue 3, Romney sidestepped both matters and instead delivered familiar broadsides against unions.
He attacked the National Labor Relations Board for holding up the construction of a Boeing facility in South Carolina and trashed union-backed "card check" legislation.
"There is a lot of spirit in this room, and I want to salute that spirit and the volunteerism that is gathered here to take back America," Romney said. "If I am fortunate enough to be the nominee, I intend to win Ohio with your help."
Rep. Jim Renacci, a freshman congressman from northeast Ohio, made the trip to Cincinnati and endorsed Romney at the event.
Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine, who is neutral in the presidential race, also spoke at the event.