AFL-CIO Self-Restraint -- Who Does It Help/Hurt?

Last night, the AFL-CIO leadership voted unanimously to recommend that its 54 member unions refrain from endorsing Presidential candidates until the full organization picks one in the fall. Some unions might very well do so anyway, but most will probably comply. (This obviously doesn't affect the unions not affiliated with AFL-CIO, most notably the SEIU locals.)

The idea is to make the AFL-CIO's endorsement a huge key to winning the Democratic nomination. Fair enough. But which candidates are helped or hurt by this development?

I think this helps Hillary Clinton. John Edwards, and to a lesser extent Obama Barack, were likely to gain some union endorsements -- which bring with them monetary contributions, volunteer help, boosts in the polls, independent-expenditure ads and literature, and general credibility. Clinton would have been successful in persuading many, but not all, of those unions to hold off their endorsements. But every endorsement would serve as a dent in her 'inevitability' armor.

On the other hand, this could mean that whoever emerges as the credible alternative to Clinton by the fall, could get an enormous boost in the crucial final stretch before the primaries by gaining the AFL-CIO endorsement -- and with it tens of thousands of volunteer troops and tens of millions of dollars in independent expenditures.

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