Phew! Al Gore Gets the Nod From Big Labor

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Al Gore just headed off a big embarrassment. Barring a sudden revolt in the ranks, it looks as if the embattled veep will get the big nod for the Democratic presidential nomination from Big Labor when 700 AFL-CIO delegates begin voting Tuesday afternoon. It took a bit of hustle from the Gore camp and some serious cajoling — and a photo-op with James Hoffa — from President Clinton, but TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan says it was well worth it. Not so much because Gore got it but because he didn’t notget it. "It’s the expectations game. This endorsement was built in, so it’s not going to give Gore a huge boost. But if the unions had sat on their hands during their convention this week — which is what Bill Bradley was hoping for — it would have been a disaster."

With the AFL-CIO nod, Gore gets 68 unions and 13 million members at least nominally behind him. The members themselves don’t vote as uniformly as they used to, but Gore gets organization–- union types to work the phones, print leaflets and get out the vote –- that not only garners votes but save him from dipping into his own strained coffers. He also gets an unusually enlightened incarnation of Big Labor — one that’s scared enough of George W. Bush to have given both Gore and Bradley a free pass on free trade. On the other hand, with the momentum-deprived Gore campaign there’s always a downside. "Critics are going to be able to say, ‘There he goes, more endorsements from big institutions — where’s the excitement?,’" Branegan says. These days, Gore will just have to take what he can get.