POLITICS
05/19/2010 11:22 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

AFL-CIO: Election A 'Real Condemnation' Of Lincoln, Runoff Not 'Problematic'

The nation's largest union conglomerate predicted on Wednesday that it has the enthusiasm and momentum to defeat Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in the runoff primary in Arkansas, calling the inability of the two-term incumbent to win Tuesday's initial vote a "real condemnation."

Karen Ackerman, the political director of the AFL-CIO, told the Huffington Post that union members are eager to finish the job it started when it endorsed and donated heavily to Lt. Governor Bill Halter's primary challenge.

"I think the next vote is not going to be problematic," she said, of the June 8 runoff election. "People will be energized and engaged and want to go out and vote in the runoff."

Speaking hours after Lincoln beat Halter by a 44-42 margin (her inability to get a majority of the vote ensured a runoff) Ackerman said that, even before the votes had been cast, the AFL-CIO could legitimate declare victory. In an effort to stem the bleeding with working and progressive voters, Lincoln felt compelled to introduce strong financial reform legislation governing derivatives. More broadly, unions had sent a chilling message to Democrats in Washington: stray too far from the philosophical tent and you'll be held to account.

"Yes [there was victory before the vote was cast]," said Ackerman. "I think that several months ago when the labor movement in Arkansas, supported by the national labor presidents, decided to endorse Halter, that you saw immediately that Blanche Lincoln tried to court the working class vote and tried to identify herself as a supporter of workers and a supporter of unions. But it was hollow. And I think strengthening her position on financial reform was a reflection of her trying to reach out... It did not fly. It did not fly. She wasn't able to convince people of that."

That said, Ackerman would not commit to opposing Lincoln (or at least sitting out her election) should she end up the victor in the Arkansas runoff. Asked whether she'd make that pledge -- which rival union SEIU has done -- she replied that the final decision with respect to general election endorsements would be made at the local level.

"I think we will have to take that as it comes," Ackerman said, when asked if the AFL-CIO is prepared to sit on the sidelines should Lincoln end up defeating Halter. "I have no idea... we are focused on the runoff."