AFL-CIO Decision Linked to Reno's 'Electability' Problem

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - The Florida AFL-CIO's endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride is the latest setback for former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, whose campaign for governor is plagued by questions about whether she can win in November.

Reno didn't receive the union's endorsement because some of its leaders were concerned about Reno's "electability," according to AFL-CIO spokesman Rich Templin.

"As a state federation representing over 150 unions here in Florida, the convention delegates felt like they had a responsibility to choose a candidate who not only represented the interests of working families in Florida but who had an actual chance to win the governor's race," said Templin.

Templin expects Reno to run well on her home turf in Southeast Florida, which contains Miami and Dade County. But he doesn't think Reno's South Florida roots will help her in other parts of the state, especially considering her connection to the Clinton administration.

"In North Florida and North-Central Florida, it's hard to find any demographic where she would have a base simply because of the people that are there. This is still the 'Deep South' and there's a lot of decisions that she made under the Clinton administration regarding things like gun control and issues like that just don't bode well for her," said Templin.

Recent opinion polls have shown Reno with a huge lead over Democratic rivals, but trailing incumbent Gov. Jeb Bush in a hypothetical November match-up. Miami Herald state editor Jay Ducassi thinks Reno might have a tough time because of the makeup of the Florida electorate.

"The electorate, by and large, is fairly moderate but as you get further and further north, it gets more conservative and I believe they think her record is too liberal and too controversial," said Ducassi.

Mo Elleithee, Reno's campaign manager, believes the campaign continues to build momentum in the Sunshine State. He credits the momentum to Reno's recent "red truck tour" around the state.

"Over the past few weeks, Janet's campaign has really started to take off as more and more people sign on to help spread her message of a better future for Florida. Since the end of the red truck tour, our momentum has continued to grow. The Florida State University College Democrats, announced their endorsement of Janet in the Democratic primary," said Elleithee in a statement on the campaign website.

The primary election is set for September 10.

Challenging Reno for the Democratic nomination are McBride, Miami state Senator Daryl Jones, Miami political activist Bob Kunst and Florida House Democratic Leader Lois Frankel.

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