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An Edwards union eyes Obama

January 31, 2008 |  4:35 pm

John Edwards' departure from the Democratic presidential race leaves dangling some key unions who supported him. And word on the street is that one -- the Transport Workers Union -- may quickly shed its disappointment and sign up with Barack Obama's campaign.

The endorsement, if it happens, could prove beneficial to Obama in his Super Tuesday faceoff with Hillary Clinton.

Representing subway workers, bus drivers and the like, it claims more than 50,000 active and retired members in New York (the Clinton homestate where Obama hopes to avoid a blowout), 8,000 in New Jersey and 12,000 in California -- three of the major states with Tuesday primaries.

It's also got a contingent of about 10,000 current and retired members in Oklahoma, one of those "red" states where Obama wants to show his appeal in a primary on Tuesday.

Other unions that backed Edwards ...

but now are free agents include the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the United Steelworkers of America and the United Mine Workers of America.

Clinton, given her stronger links to traditional centers of power within the Democratic Party, scarfed up the lion's share of labor endorsements. Her supporters include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Federation of Teachers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

These endorsements don't get the attention generated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's backing of John McCain today, or even Hulk Hogan's embrace earlier in the week of Obama. But the grassroots energy that unions can supply could become increasingly important in the one-on-one Democratic battle.

And you can bet that Obama and his aides are doing everything possible to woo those groups that opted for Edwards at a time when Clinton seemed the clear frontrunner in the race.

-- Don Frederick

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