I disagree with Ana’s assertion that the SEIU endorsement doesn’t matter, because endorsements “don’t actually get people out to the polls.”
That is precisely what unions do, and their endorsements are far from merely an “imprimatur,” as Ana suggests. Union endorsements are very different from, say, those of celebrities or politicians. That’s because unions back up their endorsement with millions of dollar in spending on advertisements and get-out-the-vote efforts. In Iowa, for instance, AFSCME’s political action committee reportedly spent a half-million dollars running anti-Obama ads on behalf of Hillary Clinton. As Chris Cillizza notes in the Washington Post blog:
While the symbolic importance of an SEIU endorsement of Obama is considerable, there is also a practical element. SEIU has roughly 100,000 members total in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania — all crucial states holding primaries over the next two months. Thus, an SEIU endorsement of Obama would add crucial ground forces to his efforts in those states.
SEIU also has significant Latino membership, and its support could help Obama make inroads into that community.
Do union endorsements alone win elections? No–as Obama learned in Nevada, when he scored the highly coveted Culinary Workers endorsement, and still came up short in the vote (though he won in the delegate count). But in a Democratic primary, there is no ally that a candidate would rather have on his side.
Finally, there is the sheer amount of ground that organized labor can cover. Here is what the AFL-CIO did in the 2006 midterms:
Ninety-two percent of union members in battleground states said they heard from their union this election cycle.
The AFL-CIO’s program reached out to 13.4 million voters in 32 battleground states. It reached union members, members of union households, retirees and members of Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate for workers who don’t have a union.
More than 205,000 union members volunteered for the AFL-CIO’s political program this year. Union members knocked on more than 8.25 million doors, made 30 million phone calls and passed out more than 14 million leaflets at workplaces and in neighborhoods. The AFL-CIO’s program sent out more than 20 million pieces of mail to union households, not including those sent by affiliate unions.
The AFL-CIO’s “Final Four” program in the final four days of the election proved to be a powerful counter to the RNC’s 72-hour program. The AFL-CIO turned out 187,000 volunteers, made nearly 8 million phone calls and knocked on 3.5 million doors in the final four days.