Union Endorsement Still Up in the Air
John Edwards appears to be in the lead to receive one of labor's most coveted endorsements, but he may have to wait a little longer to know whether he can claim the prize.
Members of the Service Employees International Union have spent the last two days hearing from the candidates and the SEIU board will meet Wednesday morning to discuss their endorsement decision.
Even before the two-day gathering, SEIU president Andrew Stern had pointed in the direction the union may be heading, by saying Edwards had more support among the 1.9 million members than any of the other Democrats.
If SEIU endorses anyone, the likeliest candidate by far is Edwards, according to labor sources. But both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have strong support from SEIU members in their home states -- and Obama's speech on Monday was judged the best of the lot.
So it's possible SEIU will, in the end, decide not to endorse anyone and that will be part of the discussion at Wednesday's board meeting.
In any case, the leadership may not be ready to announce an endorsement decision this week. After all the union waited until November 2003 to spring its surprise joint endorsement (with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) of Howard Dean.
Edwards has worked tirelessly for the SEIU endorsement -- just as he's done with many other unions -- and it may pay dividends. His advisers see the union endorsements as providing a psychological boost for a candidacy that remains in third place in national polls.
The former North Carolina senator also needs the support of organized labor to overcome the financial advantages of both Clinton and Obama, who have significantly out-raised him in both of the first two quarters of the year.
Although Dean's candidacy collapsed less than two months after SEIU and AFSCME endorsed him, SEIU leaders have few regrets about their decision. In their view, the endorsement ought to go to someone who has fought for the issues important to their members, not just someone ahead in the polls.
That could bode well for Edwards, if the union decides not to stay neutral. But the deal may not yet be done.
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