The nation's largest labor federation says it will make the difference for Democrats this November by reaching out to more union members than in past election years.
In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released internal polling that has 75 House Democratic seats in play. The Republicans only need to win 39 of those seats to take control of the House.
But the labor leader is confident the Democrats will retain control of the lower chamber thanks to union support. Thirty-seven of those seats are in districts with “high union density” — having 40,000 union voters or more — and those voters will be key for Democrats to hold onto those seats.
“Our job is going to make a difference in this election,” Trumka said. “Union voters really are the firewall for candidates who support working families.”
The AFL-CIO has expanded its political program from 80 House races to more than 100 and is also campaigning in 18 Senate races.
“Because of the narrowness of so many of these races, we consistently evaluate what races are in play,” said Karen Ackerman, AFL-CIO’s political director.
Ackerman said expansion of the AFL-CIO’s political program came about when House seats that were once considered safe became endangered. The organization also is looking to flip some seats that are now in Republican hands.
“It goes both ways. Incumbents that we have endorsed are looking more vulnerable than before, and there are a few seats that look like they are in play,” Ackerman said.
Along with Hawaii and Delaware’s lone House seats, the AFL-CIO has also been active in canvassing their members in Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-Fla.) and Dan Lungren’s (R-Calif.) districts.
The AFL-CIO is working its ground game to turn out voters in November. They have concentrated on sending out direct mail to union members, canvassing neighborhoods and reaching out to voters at their work sites.
“Our campaign is about worker-to-worker contact. The more contact, as you can see, the higher margin that they vote for Democratic candidates,” Trumka said.
Trumka said he believes the contact program has helped closed the enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters and that momentum is now beginning to move in Democrats’ favor before the elections.
But the union president estimates the biggest variable in the 2010 campaign is the role of special-interest money. The election spending by groups in favor of Republicans cannot be matched by the labor movement, according to Trumka.
“There is no comparison. We will never be able to keep pace with corporate America,” Trumka said.
Further, campaign spending by outside groups has resulted in more requests to the AFL-CIO for help from endangered Democratic candidates this year.
“Has there been requests for money? Oh, a few,” Trumka joked.
“The more they get hit with independent expenditures, the more they look around for help,” Trumka said. “The requests for money have been broadened from people who you would normally think would have safe seats, are normally the safe seats, they have been little less safe-acting, which is probably smart.”