Could labor be getting ready to bail on Hillary in favor of Bernie?

I’m still not at the point where I’m willing to raise the possibility of Hillary losing the nomination to some number greater than 0% but there are some interesting smoke signals coming up on the horizon lately which might have me questioning the collective wisdom on the subject. Bernie Sanders is in Maryland this week attending the AFL-CIO’s executive council meeting and making his pitch for why he’s a better candidate to support big labor than Hillary. (Clinton will be there after him.) Obviously he would like to have the support of the unions because, let’s face it, no Democrat can win without them. And while nobody has jumped ship yet, it sounds like there may be some tremors of doubt among the labor groups and a few may be considering backing him. (Washington Post)

Sanders then made the case that he’s stronger on labor’s issues. “I am not aware that there is anybody in the House and Senate that has a stronger voting record for the AFL-CIO,” he said. “It’s a 98 percent lifetime voting record.” …

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the 185,000-member National Nurses United, hinted that her group may endorse Sanders sometime in the next month. “He can talk about our issues as well as we can talk about our issues,” she said last night. “Bernie Sanders taught many of us single payer health care … His politics haven’t shifted in 40 years. It’s as though he’s from the labor movement.” Then she described the endorsement choice as “complicated” and “difficult,” saying it is “not black-and-white.”

The NNU head is at odds with Randi Weingarten from the Federation of Teachers, who jumped in early to endorse Hillary. Randi isn’t backing down, but there are others who are edging away from Clinton and taking a close look at Sanders. Yet the umbrella group, the AFL-CIO, has the final say. Will they tip over Hillary’s apple cart? As the WaPo report suggests, that’s unlikely… for now. But they might not seal Bernie’s doom either.

It would be historically unusual for the AFL-CIO to endorse so early. The federation as a whole has only waded early into a competitive Democratic primary twice over the past three decades (for Al Gore in 2000 and Walter Mondale in 1984). Normally, individual unions offer their own endorsements. Then the federation gets behind someone once it is clear who the nominee will be.

The easiest thing in the world for AFL-CIO head Richard Trumpka to do would be to urge his members to stay on the sideline, let the politicians fight it out and just endorse the eventual winner in the general election. And there’s every reason to expect that this is precisely what he’ll do. But if he gets enough of an internal war going among the labor ranks and feels like he’s got to take a side all bets are off. Hillary is the easy pick, but the unions would obviously love to have an actual, hard core socialist on the ticket rather than Clinton’s play it down the middle, keep everyone happy strategy. (By that I mean down the Democratic middle, obviously.)

But by the same token, labor can’t really afford to back a loser who winds up either not getting the nomination or losing in the general election and handing the entire pie to the GOP. I’ll put the odds of the AFL-CIO backing Sanders at less than 20% at this point, but it’s still a chance. And if they do shock us by going with the Vermont senator, Katy bar the door. That could actually be the end of Hillary’s run.