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Gephardt to workers: 'Jobs, jobs, jobs'

'I ask you to come to caucus for me on Monday night'

Dick Gephardt talks to reporters after speaking to area Democrats on Friday in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Dick Gephardt talks to reporters after speaking to area Democrats on Friday in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

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Richard A. Gephardt

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (Reuters) -- Democratic presidential contender Richard Gephardt, in a razor-close Iowa race, promised a spirited rally of union workers that he would have three priorities in the White House: "jobs, jobs, jobs."

At a rally sponsored by 18 international industrial unions, Gephardt was saluted as a proven friend of labor who could win the Iowa caucuses on Monday and defeat President Bush in November. ('s interactive Election Calendar)

"Gephardt! Gephardt!" chanted a crowd of several hundred union members as the candidate entered.

"Dick Gephardt has stood up for workers for 27 years. Now we're going to stand up for Dick Gephardt," Joe Hart, president of the steelworkers' union, told the rally.

"I'm one of you," Gephardt said. "My dad was a Teamster truck driver. I'm going to have three goals as president: jobs, jobs, jobs."

Gephardt has received a big hand from labor in this campaign, yet not as much as he had hoped. While 21 international unions have endorsed him, the 13 million-member AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, remained neutral.

In addition, two of the AFL-CIO's biggest members, the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union and the 1.4 million-strong American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, backed Dean.

Teamsters President James Hoffa called Gephardt labor's bona fide friend, one who has steadfastly during nearly three decades in Congress pushed to protect U.S. jobs, expand health care and upgrade education.

"Dick Gephardt has been there for us, and now we are here for him," Hoffa said.

During a campaign swing through northern Iowa, Gephardt urged crowds to participate in their caucuses next week because "the whole world will be looking" to see who wins the opening battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"You are going to make a good choice on Monday night," Gephardt, a congressman from neighboring Missouri, told a gathering of a few dozen people at the Elks Lodge in Mason City. "I trust you."

The winner will likely be determined by who gets the most supporters to leave their homes on Monday night and go to caucuses across the state to support their candidate. (Top story: The Iowa caucuses)

"I ask you to come to caucus for me on Monday night," Gephardt told the Elks Lodge gathering. "I even want you to bring others."

"The whole world is going to be looking at you (and) there is nobody better equipped to do this than you are," he said.

Gephardt, who won Iowa during his first presidential bid in 1988 before running out of money, is seen as having to win Iowa to remain viable this time around.

Gephardt said on Thursday the state is key to all of the Democratic presidential contenders who are trying to unseat Bush. He said regardless of the outcome, he will be campaigning the next day in New Hampshire, which holds its presidential primary on January 27.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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