AFL-CIO chief: Democrats will pick up seats in the House this November

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that Democrats would gain ground in the House this November but he wouldn't predict they would retake control of the lower chamber.

The head of the nation’s largest labor federation wouldn’t rule out that possibility although he did say he wouldn’t bet on it.

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“I think that the Democrats in the House will pick up seats primarily because of the obstructionism that we have seen so far and the lack of a program,” Trumka said, speaking to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

But when asked if the party would be in the majority next year, Trumka said "that remains to be seen. That’s a possibility. I wouldn’t rule that out but I’m not going to bet the ranch on that as well this time. We will see what happens."

Most observers predict Republicans will retain control of the lower chamber. Democrats would need to gain about two dozen seats to retake the majority, which is seen as a steep hill for the party to climb.

Mike Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director, said outside campaign spending from GOP-friendly groups is what is holding Democrats back.

“Except for the extraordinary amount of money going into the House from outside groups, this would be another wave election for the Democrats,” Podhorzer said.

After giving Democrats a “one in three” chance to take the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week he was “feeling better” about the GOP holding the lower chamber. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said in the past that her party has 50-50 odds of winning the House in November.

Labor plans to be a formidable political force for the November elections as they campaign across the country for their chosen candidates.

The AFL-CIO expects to have more than 400,000 activists in place working on the election. Further, the labor federation will have 5,000 to 6,000 poll monitors watching voting booths on Election Day.

On Aug. 25, the labor federation will begin its fall political program with activists walking through neighborhoods, knocking on doors and talking to voters in more than 20 states.

That effort will expand to all 50 states, although six core states — Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — will receive extra attention from the labor group. This is part of the AFL-CIO building a permanent political structure that can work issues key to unions year-round, instead of just in the election season.

Trumka was confident that the White House would remain in Democratic hands.

“I do think that President Obama will win reelection,” Trumka said. “I think it will be a close race because the massive amount of money and resources that will get pounded into this election.”

The AFL-CIO chief felt the same about the Senate.

“I think in some instances because of a little bit of good luck that the Senate will remain in Democratic hands,” Trumka said.

The labor leader said the president has done a lot for unions and that by focusing on jobs, Obama is winning over working-class voters. Trumka remembered last year that he said Obama was making a “strategic mistake” by focusing so much on deficit reduction and that he needed to talk about jobs more.

“Now, I don’t want to say ‘I told you so’ but last Labor Day, he started talking about jobs and the economy and creating jobs and a different vision. And he has not let up since then,” Trumka said. “I think he stays on that vision. I think Mitt Romney has to stay on his vision, and I think he loses and Obama wins.”