The day is long past when Big Labor moved in lockstep. Stern, saying he was following SEIU's rank-and-file, backed Howard Dean in 2004. Hoffa supported his old law school classmate, Richard Gephardt. Both endorsed John Kerry as soon as he clinched the nomination and were not happy with him. Nobody is about to move before next summer, and labor sources say Stern will wait until September.
Edwards's unusual step selecting former Rep. David Bonior of Michigan as his national campaign manager, the first such task undertaken in his long political career, has been described as enlisting a laborite politician to woo labor. But Teamsters officials regard Bonior as less their friend than a friend of the United Auto Workers. Some feel Edwards would have been better advised to stick with his former campaign manager, Nick Baldick, an experienced political operative who has been given the task of advising Edwards on the early tests in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire. Baldick is renowned for saving Al Gore from oblivion in the 2000 New Hampshire primary.
The labor operatives pondering their '08 decisions also confess they are less than comfortable with a prominent role in the campaign by Edwards's wife, Elizabeth, who never has been a political spouse staying in the shadows. It is not good news for Edwards if some Teamsters are put off by the triumvirate of John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards and Dave Bonior.
However, Edwards's sunny aura and commanding presence can transcend the negative impact of anybody at his side. When Bayh dropped out last Saturday, there was speculation that Edwards would be the next to go. On the contrary, Edwards is where he wants to be, hoping for a big shove forward from labor.