Candidates Blitzing Iowa, New Hampshire on Labor Day

Candidates Blitzing Iowa, New Hampshire on Labor Day
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Labor Day was invented by organized labor, becoming a “workingman’s holiday,” observed first in the states and then as an annual, national respite beginning in 1894. Since then, it’s been a regular event for local, state and nationally ambitious politicians who march in parades, give speeches on the first Monday in September, and pledge allegiance to the pluck and innovation of America’s workforce.

Presidential candidates from both parties will fan out this Labor Day weekend, appearing in early primary states while also sending surrogates to events they can’t attend themselves. Democrats will appear in Iowa and New Hampshire, while some GOP presidential contenders will concentrate their attentions on New Hampshire.

With headlines analyzing an expanding U.S. economy and shrinking wages, this weekend’s Labor Day speeches are likely to play up the inequalities Democrats see between average workers and corporate executives, while Republicans are more likely to sidestep direct references to unions or policy specifics that might set teeth on edge in some audiences. Democrats want to cast Republicans as anti-worker, and GOP candidates complain that progressives’ policies punish employers and stifle job creation. 

As part of the presidential sweepstakes, Labor Day weekend marks the end of a surprisingly robust summer contest that will pivot into a new phase in September in which the money chase, negative advertising, ground operations, and televised debates could winnow a sprawling GOP field, now led by New York real estate developer Donald Trump.

The cliffhanger among the five declared Democratic candidates is whether Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders can continue his surge among younger and progressive voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, and whether Vice President Joe Biden decides to challenge Hillary Clinton for the nomination. 

Getting a jump on the Monday holiday, Clinton will campaign Saturday in Manchester, N.H., where she will headline a reception honoring the state’s organized labor community. She’ll spend the next two days in Iowa zooming through multiple events, advocating higher wages for working families. In Iowa, she’ll attend a Sunday town hall meeting in Newton organized for members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union umbrella whose backing she seeks. 

On Monday, Clinton has three Labor Day events on her schedule (two picnics and a fish fry), including the annual Hawkeye Labor Council AFL-CIO celebration in Cedar Rapids.

Sanders, whose populist perspective is winning converts among union members, is stretching the festivities to Tuesday, capitalizing on his Sept. 8 birthday, encouraging backers to donate $8 or more to help celebrate his milestone (74). Sanders’ volunteers are baking cakes and organizing marches and rallies for him across the country. 

But first, he’ll be in Manchester on Labor Day, appearing with Lincoln Chafee, the Democratic presidential candidate from Rhode Island, at the annual New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast. Clinton is sending Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan in her place, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is sending his state’s former labor secretary to represent him.

O’Malley is concentrating his weekend salute to workers in Iowa, scheduling nine events over three days in a state he’ll visit for the eleventh time since the start of his presidential bid. He has turned to two of his children, Will and Grace, to serve as his surrogates for the first time in New Hampshire, where they zigzag across the Granite State over three days.

In New Hampshire, Sanders leads the Democratic field by almost four points, according to the RealClearPolitics average. He polls at 41.7 percent, compared with Clinton’s 38.3 percent and O’Malley’s 2 percent. In Iowa, Clinton leads the pack at 46 percent, polling 23.5 points ahead of Sanders, while O’Malley lags at 4 percent, according to the RCP average.

For many Republican candidates, New Hampshire is the Labor Day weekend place to be. Schedules indicate GOP hopefuls will appear in the first-in-the-nation primary state to mingle at house parties, general stores, diners and traditional picnics.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker plans to spend the long weekend riding his Harley motorcycle through each of New Hampshire’s 10 counties. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham will take part in the Milford Labor Day Parade, among other events around the state throughout the weekend. All three are campaigning with gusto in New Hampshire, where make or break opportunities attract new presidential contenders.

Kasich has seen his Granite State poll numbers improve, thanks to more than $3 million in ads underwritten by his super PAC. He has maintained a campaign schedule that has rooted him in the state. Graham, at the bottom of the GOP pack, has taken note: he fashioned a rigorous New Hampshire-centered schedule, and his super PAC began running $1 million worth of ads there this week, touting his national security credentials. 


Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Caitlin Huey-Burns is a reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at

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