CONCORD, N.H. -- Oh, labor union politics.
The New Hampshire chapter of the Service Employees International Union endorsed John Edwards presidential campaign this afternoon, a week after the executive board voted in favor of Barack Obama.
The endorsement is probably the most significant development in Edwards's entire campaign. It means that 1.3 million members of SEIU chapters in a dozen other states that have already endorsed Edwards -- including neighboring Massachusetts and Maine -- are allowed to enter state lines and campaign on Edwards's behalf.
But the SEIU decision was far from unanimous and far from uncomplicated.
Much of the many weird questions about the SEIU endorsement process began on Oct. 23 when the local union's executive board met. Some board members were believed they would be making their endorsement that day. As The New York Times previously reported even former President Bill Clinton called during this meeting to encourage them to meet with his wife, Hillary, in person before making their decision. But eventually a vote was taken. Two people who voted said the final count was 7-5 in favor of endorsing Obama.
The Barack Obama campaign contends that after that vote New Hampshire SEIU President Gary Smith called Obama. Obama was on the phone as he walked off a stage on the Boston Common where he just received the endorsement of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Obama believed he won the endorsement of the union.
Smith refused to answer repeated questions about whether or not he did indeed tell Obama this, but said they did talk that night after the vote. Smith said the 7-5 vote was just a straw poll vote and was not in favor of an endorsement. The executive board met again twice on Thursday and Friday where they decided to allow their members to have a straw poll during their previously scheduled convention in Nashua on Saturday. Edwards won that straw poll and last night the executive board voted again, this time Edwards won 9-8.
Showing up in person to receive the endorsement Edwards said he was both "thrilled" and "proud" to have the endorsement.