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Labor Unions Echo Ohio’s Wider Divisions Over Primary

With polls showing Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running a tight race in Ohio, the debate among Ohioans over which candidate to back in Tuesday's primary is being echoed from the Buckeye State's solidly Democratic labor unions. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    On the Democratic race in Ohio, Judy Woodruff spent the last several days there listening to union members and other voters. Here is her report.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For the first time in decades, the Buckeye State has a big role to play in choosing the Democratic nominee for president.

  • HILLARY CLINTON VOLUNTEER:

    As you know, we only have a few days left until the election is held here in Ohio.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Because of a crowded primary calendar, the campaigns have had only a few weeks to get organized. Coming in, Hillary Clinton had the advantage: double-digit leads in the polls less than a month ago.

  • BARACK OBAMA VOLUNTEER:

    Hi, I'm from the Obama campaign.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But with a national string of wins behind him, Barack Obama is now nipping at her heels. Volunteers say they will knock on a million Ohio doors before tomorrow.

    The stakes couldn't be higher. And no place in Ohio is more closely contested than Cleveland, which has the largest concentration of Democrats in the state.

    Ohio has lost over 200,000 jobs just in the last seven years, the worst since the Great Depression. That makes the economy and jobs top issues here, and it heightens the role of labor unions, whose members could make up 35 percent to 40 percent of the turnout in tomorrow's Democratic primary.

    Gina Knapp, a school bus driver in Madison, belongs to an Ohio affiliate of AFSCME, the government employees union, which has endorsed Clinton.

  • GINA KNAPP, Clinton Supporter:

    I'm Gina Knapp.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    As she canvassed union households in west Cleveland late last week, she got questions about Clinton's support for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

  • GINA KNAPP:

    OK, well…

  • OHIO VOTER:

    The NAFTA thing really concerns me.

  • GINA KNAPP:

    Does it?

  • OHIO VOTER:

    Yes.

  • GINA KNAPP:

    Well, you know, she did say in her debate that she was going to check into that, because it wasn't working, but she would look into it.

  • OHIO VOTER:

    Right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Knapp is not discouraged.

  • GINA KNAPP:

    I always have thought of Hillary Clinton as a good candidate because she has been our first lady. She has done a lot for the working class and the labor class. And I just feel that her as president would be for the working people.