AFL-CIO Campaign

Alyssa Rosenberg from Government Executive offers this briefing on the AFL-CIO's conference call about their planned anti-McCain political activities:

The AFL-CIO wants to catch up Republican candidates for governorships and Senate seats in the negative coattails they hope to create for McCain. They’re targeting governor’s races in Washington, Missouri and Indiana, and Senate races in Kentucky, which they used as a testing ground for their national strategy during the 2007 governor’s race and Alaska.

They will spend a lot of money on the McCain component of the race. As Karen Ackerman, the AFL-CIO political director put it “We will spend what it takes.” They have $53.4 budgeted for grassroots activities during the race, but no exact estimate on what portion of that will be devoted to targeting McCain.

This will be a extremely targeted campaign. In Kentucky last year, they briefed volunteers with microtargeting data so they could tailor their conversations with individual union voters, and it sounds like they’ll be doing that again. Ackerman stressed that many of the voters will have multiple contacts, on multiple subjects, with the AFL-CIO, whether through the canvass on May 17, the 100,000 phone calls the AFL-CIO will make through May, or through several hundred town hall meetings on health care that will take place in April. In addition, the AFL-CIO is planning to have volunteers at every McCain appearance, including his town hall meeting in Exeter, NH, today, and they will be asking him very specific questions. Today those questions will concern outsourcing and the closing of New Hampshire factories. They have gotten very good at microtargeting, and in some ways, union structure lends itself well to this: volunteers can get data on voters they already work with and live near to inform their pitches for or against a candidate, and then report back on their conversations to the people who handle the microtarget databases, which is what they’d be doing anyway with shop stewards or union organizers.

The talking points will be relatively standard: they’ll hit McCain for votes he missed, times he voted against changes that would have benefitted union members, and areas where he’s followed President Bush’s lead, most notably on Social Security.

Especially in the likely Obama/McCain matchup, I think Social Security will be key. McCain's support in GOP primaries skewed old, and Obama's support in Democratic primaries skews young. In a general election, you'll be looking at age as a major determinant of voting behavior. And yet Social Security and Medicare are domestic issues on which McCain has a rock-ribbed conservative record. Whether or not older voters, especially from the white working class, focus on those aspects of McCain's record is going to be key to whether or not he has a real shot at the general election.