Make no mistake: John Edwards campaigned hard for the Service Employees International Union endorsement. He succeeded in winning over key members of the union's executive board. His public alliance with labor after the 2004 elections set a level of expectations that Edwards has not met.

Barack Obama was the skunk at the party, even more so than Hillary Clinton. There was enough enthusiasm for Obama among the SEIU's rank-and-file that an endorsement of Edwards would have created internal dissension.

But notice: instead of letting each individual local endorse -- a move that would have diluted the SEIU's political power entirely, the board settled for a middle ground. The SEIU will require that locals join together and decide on a single endorsement per state. That means that Edwards could very well get the key endorsements of SEIU locals in Iowa (its nurses and state employees are powerful) and New Hampshire (ok, not so powerful.)

"States that vote for Edwards can work together," an Edwards adviser said last night. "No SEIU affiliate can engage or work inside a state that does not share their endorsement. For example if Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada go for Edwards, only states that support Edwards will be able to work with those early states. Illinois will endorse Obama but will not be able to send people or resources into Iowa."

That's true -- but it's not at all clear that the Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada SEIUs are ready to endorse Edwards.

Consider Nevada: The small local there was tasked by the international union with holding a straw poll last weekend. As proxies, Clinton sent Rory Reid, son of Harry Reid, and Chris Giunchigliani, a powerful Clark County commissioner. Obama sent Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Steven Horseford, an African American state senator and head of the Culinary Union's training academy. Edwards sent a state assemblywoman.

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