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Richard Trumka Wouldn’t Bet on House Democrats’ Gains

Updated: 8:25 p.m.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka expressed doubts today about whether Democrats will gain seats in the House come November.

“I wouldn’t rule that out, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it this time. We’ll see what happens,” he said in response to a question about whether Democrats will pick up seats in the House. He spoke at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

While the union chief predicted the House makeup would stay relatively the same, he went against the grain in predicting Democrats stand to gain seats in the Senate and remain in control there.

“The Senate will remain in Democratic hands,” he said, forecasting that they will pick up seats due to what he characterized as Republicans’ obstructionist attitude. “I think [Republicans will] lose this time around.”

He also lamented that so few moderates exist, saying this year the AFL-CIO is backing fewer Republicans than it has in previous election cycles.

“The ones that were most bipartisan and we could work with are leaving because they are seen as being too liberal,” Trumka said. “More moderates are falling off, and that’s a tragedy for the country.”

As for the general election, Trumka predicted President Barack Obama will be back for a second term but that the race will be close due to the “extraordinary” amount of funds being spent by super PACs.

Trumka was pressed about whether Obama has been as strong of an ally to the labor movement as he promised.

“Has he done everything he can to further the labor movement?” Trumka asked. “That’s a simple answer. No president has ever done as much as they could for the labor movement. But has he done a lot for our workers? Yes.”

Ushering through the 2009 health care law, putting the auto industry back on solid footing and helping to increase safety in the workplace, the union president said, are the best examples of what Obama has been able to accomplish for the working class.

He also offered up campaign advice for the president: “Keep talking about jobs, jobs and more jobs.”

Leading up to the national conventions, the AFL-CIO will unleash its biggest voter advocacy effort ever. It will kick off the nationwide effort Aug. 25, when 400,000 members will begin going door to door. When Obama campaigned in 2008, the union turned out 250,000 volunteers.

While union officials generally abhor the new campaign finance rules, Trumka said, they plan to take advantage of language in the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows union volunteers to canvas non-union members for the first time, increasing significantly the number of homes and voters they can reach.

“We oppose Citizens United, but since it’s there, we’ll use it,” Trumka said.

In addition to those going door to door, the AFL-CIO will also have 5,000 to 6,000 poll monitors in place through Election Day.

Trumka also said that after the election, the union plans to keep its campaigning advocacy arm in place to create a “permanent program” that will allow the AFL-CIO to apply pressure more quickly when labor issues arise in the new Congress.

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