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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Clinton & Huckabee get joint labor endorsement

Trade union endorses Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Gov. Mike Huckabee

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

Washington (Reuters) - One of the biggest U.S. trade unions made an unusual dual endorsement in the 2008 White House race on Thursday, backing Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Mike Huckabee for their parties' presidential nominations.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which has about 720,000 active and retired members, backed a candidate from each party for the first time after a recent survey found about one-third of union members voted Republican and two-thirds Democratic. "The dual endorsement is intended to involve all IAM members in the upcoming election," said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger.

The endorsement was made at the union's national conference in Orlando, Florida. Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, was the only Republican to address the labor group. Huckabee has lagged behind the top Republican 2008 contenders in national polls and fund raising but received a boost earlier this month with a surprise second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll.

"Mike Huckabee was the only Republican candidate with the guts to meet with our members and the only one willing to figure out where and how we might work together," Buffenbarger said in a statement.

The union endorsement was the second of the week for Clinton, a New York senator who leads the Democratic field in national polls 14 months ahead of the November 2008 election. She won the backing of the smaller United Transportation Union on Tuesday.

"Hillary Clinton earned the IAM's endorsement by focusing on jobs, health care, education and trade -- the bread and butter issues of the American middle class," Buffenbarger said. Several more unions are expected to make endorsements in the next few weeks after the national AFL-CIO freed its 55 member labor unions to make their own choices.

Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut won the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters on Wednesday.

Union officials said they would work to educate members about their chosen candidates and publicize their candidacies in union publications and Web sites.

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