WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden is set to march with the leader of the country’s largest union at a Labor Day event in Pennsylvania this weekend, an event that will highlight the vice president’s close ties to organized workers as he mulls a presidential campaign.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka downplayed the political significance of the event. “I’m going to Pittsburgh and he’s going to Pittsburgh and I’m going to walk with the vice president of the United States,” Trumka said in Washington Tuesday morning.
“People can read into that, or out of that, what they want. I told you he is a good friend and a great champion of the working people. And he hasn’t announced anything yet.”
The vice president has spent much of the last few weeks huddling with advisers and family members as he determines whether to make a third bid for the Democratic nomination.
Those deliberations have included meetings with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Trumka and several top Washington strategists, including Anita Dunn, a former adviser to President Obama.
This week he’s heading to Florida to pitch the administration's Iran deal and will also appear at a community college.
Trumka, speaking to reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, said that Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton has so far failed to excite the labor base.
“She really has to figure out a way to energize workers,” he said.
Trumka said he thinks there’s plenty of opportunity for more candidates to enter the Democratic contest. “The field is still wide open,” he said. “There is still a lot of time for things to happen.”
Clinton, the former secretary of state, announced her presidential bid in April and has already built a formidable organization including some of the top Democratic strategists. She has raised more than $45 million and has deep organizations in early primary states — including eight field offices in New Hampshire.
She has a significant lead in national polls — but is slipping in the early states where campaigns focus most of their resources. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll over the weekend showed Clinton dropping to within 10 points of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. That followed a survey in New Hampshire that put Sanders 7 percentage points ahead of Clinton.
Trumka said that he’s had informal talks with members of the Democratic National Committee about increasing the number of debates. Democrats are set to have four debates before the Iowa caucuses — and six in total.
“I like to have the debate,” Trumka said. “I like to have things open.”
Scheduling additional exchanges with the candidates wouldn’t be difficult, he said.
“They could have one two weeks from now. They could have one next Labor Day. They could have one on Christmas this year.”
Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who is lagging in the polls, has been pressing the Democratic Party for additional debates. Sanders has joined him in this effort.
A Clinton spokeswoman has said that there’s no need for additional debates.