Organized labor is playing “Moneyball” this fall, and President Barack Obama isn’t winning.
Four years ago, organized labor came out early and often for Obama, from major endorsements in the primary to multimillion-dollar ad buys later in the year.
Now, with smaller memberships, less excitement and a languishing economy, unions aren’t guaranteed to be the help they once were. It doesn’t help that Obama has at times disappointed labor on issues ranging from trade to environmental regulations to the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall vote.
Despite the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision opening the door to direct and unlimited union (and corporate) contributions, several high-ranking union officials and Democratic operatives confirm that labor’s overall presidential race spending will likely be down from four or eight years ago. The Center for Responsive Politics found at least $206 million in political spending from unions in 2008, although that figure is incomplete because not all spending has to be disclosed.
As a result, unions are taking a Moneyball-like political approach to maximize the effect of the money and muscle they do have. That may mean money goes to a congressional race or ballot initiative rather than to Obama. It also means that instead of spending big on TV ads like the outside groups helping Republican Mitt Romney, unions are preaching old-school political fundamentals: phone banking, door-knocking, member-to-member outreach.