International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger revealed some confidential survey results to The Hill, indicating that among others, members liked Hillary Clinton and were underwhelmed by Barack Obama.
The survey results reinforce a phenomenon I noticed at an AFL-CIO event a few months back, and the New Republic noted in early April – when Hillary goes out to address a Democratic interest group, her speech is dripping with references to the pet issues and obscure legislative priorities of that group. Obama gives a few references here and there, but focuses on his standard message.
In the firefighters’ speech – a textbook example of effective pandering for a lawmaker — Hillary refers to talking with Schaitberger on Sept. 12, 2001; the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act and the Firefighter Investment Response Enhancement Act (by their SAFER and FIRE acronyms, of course, using the language used within the union); “World Trade Center Cough”; legislation asking for medical and mental health monitoring and treatment for first responders; overtime pay, equipment, and bypassing state governments in block grants; interoperable communications; and working to reduce the paperwork for death benefits.
Sure, Hillary refers to Iraq, no-bid contracts for Halliburton, tax cuts for billionaires, etc. But the meat-and-potatoes of her stump speech are put on the back burner so she can go on at length about her efforts at the firefighters’ union agenda.
Obama’s speech to the firefighters union is not online, but Ron Brownstein quoted a firefighter who said Obama wished he had delivered Hillary’s speech.
Obama doesn’t need the endorsement of big unions and established interest groups. In fact, since he’s running a campaign as something of an outsider and as a breath of fresh air, he may not want too many of them. But on the road to the Democratic nomination, Obama has to at least compete for the endorsements, to minimize their members’ preference for one Democrat over another. It would appear that so far, he isn’t doing that.