Unions not swayed by Kerry momentum
Edwards to pick up Michigan nod
From Steve Turnham
CNN Political Unit
John-mentum: Despite five wins this week, Kerry has yet to generate a new wave of support on Capitol Hill or the backing of two big unions.
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CNN's Candy Crowley on '04 Dems' hopes of slowing John Kerry.
CNN's Dan Lothian on Wesley Clark taking his campaign to the South.
CNN's Soledad O'Brien talks with John Edwards on 'American Morning.'
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- John Kerry's big momentum is carrying him into what's expected to be a strong showing this weekend. But so far it hasn't generated a new wave of support from Capitol Hill, or the backing of two unions that could really help him in the days ahead.
Sources tell the Grind that the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which have both backed Howard Dean, are sticking with their man through the next round of contests. This, despite an intense lobbying effort by Kerry.
Meanwhile, as he said yesterday on CNN's "Inside Politics with Judy Woodruff," former Michigan congressman David Bonior will get behind John Edwards today. (At least, we think he will. Bonior, a former House Democratic whip and fierce labor ally, twice slipped during the interview, mixing up his Johns).
"He has the most populist message out there. He talks about race. He talks about the issue of poverty. And in addition to that, I think he's electable," Bonior said of Edwards. "I think when you take all these candidates and you place them one on one next to George Bush, and that's what people are going to look at when they see these debates and see them together, I think John Kerry -- excuse me, John Edwards -- comes off the best."
"I cannot get John Edwards and John Kerry -- maybe they ought to meld here," Bonior added. "And I think maybe they might at some point in this campaign."
Dean and labor
Even Dean's backers say the Vermont governor is running short on time. "He's asking for a lot [of time], and I think the unions are going to give him a little," said a source allied with Dean. The Kerry campaign says not to expect any big switch until after the next round of contests.
We hear that the unions will stay with Dean through Wisconsin on February 17. But then, if Dean hasn't done well by then, their support won't matter much anyway.
CNN's Sasha Johnson reports that Dean's meeting with SEIU, AFSCME and IUPAT leaders which had been scheduled for today in Michigan has been canceled due to Dean's heavy campaign schedule, but that it will be rescheduled "at some point."
SEIU President Andy Stern will still campaign with Dean on Friday in Ann Arbor. Wednesday, Stern put out a statement saying Dean's "proven track record on health care and other issues important to working families is why SEIU's members decided to endorse Dr. Dean and that is why they continue to stand strong with him now."
The SEIU has 36,000 members in Michigan, 10,000 members in Maine, 45,000 members in Washington state, and 14,000 members in Wisconsin. All of which means a series of Dean losses would be mighty embarrassing.
Now, to Capitol Hill.
Kerry backers look to House
Hoping to capitalize on Kerry's resounding victories in this week's contests, his new deputy campaign manager, Steve Elmendorf, and Kerry's Capitol Hill backers are trying to pick off Dean's supporters in the House -- who of course are superdelegates -- and pick up the endorsements of House members who had backed Joe Lieberman.
Elmendorf, Rep. Ed Markey and Sen. Edward Kennedy met late yesterday for 30 minutes in a townhouse on the Hill to meet with some undecideds. Roughly 20 members were there, mostly Kerry supporters, and they agreed to make a big push for endorsements at this weekend's House Democratic retreat. And for the first time they agreed to go after Dean backers.
One of the undecided members there was Shelly Berkley of Las Vegas. The Kerry camp is hopeful she'll sign on -- especially with Nevada's caucuses coming up on February 14 and the leading candidate in that state, Wes Clark, looking more than a little shaky.
We're also told Rep. William Lacy Clay III will get behind Kerry today. But much like Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who joined the Kerry juggernaut just last week, we have to wonder what took Clay so long.
But as we said, there's little evidence yet of a big pro Kerry wave, especially with John Edwards and Wes Clark, and perhaps even Dean, still with a fighting chance.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was with Dick Gephardt and now is neutral, told the Grind that while Kerry has been impressive, "we have to go through a few more contests" before the party needs to pull together. "We'll do so at some point," she said, "but not just yet."
Clark eyes South
Ten of Clark's Capitol Hill backers gathered via conference call to hear from the general himself -- and talk about how he turns a razor thin win in Oklahoma into the nomination. Clark was "upbeat," according to a Clark ally who got a read-out from the call, and emphasized that his main focus is now on Tennessee and Virginia.
"He had his back against the wall, but he's coming out of Oklahoma fighting."
He's also running out of money. Yesterday, Clark's senior staff "voted" to forgo pay for one week to pay for ads in Tennessee, a decision that extends to the campaign's senior-most staff. There are 240 staffers forgoing pay, saving the campaign about $250,000. The only people who will continue to get paid are field people in Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Clark aides say Internet fund-raising has been going great since Tuesday night, with one aide describing it as the highest one-day amount raised this year. The pace, we're told, is similar to the end of fourth-quarter '03. They're anticipating a midnight-to-midnight of $120,000.
Still talking Tennessee, Kerry has one of the Democratic party's stars, Rep. Harold Ford, on his side. And he may be close to winning the endorsement of former Gov. Ned McWherter, a well-liked conservative Democrat with strong ties to the state's rural reaches.
Stay tuned, we hear more big support is coming Kerry's way from Wisconsin, but probably not until sometime next week.