Sen. Clinton Campaigns at Iowa Union Rally

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) made a Labor Day campaign stop in Iowa with former President Bill Clinton at a Des Moines union rally. She didn't dwell on organized labor though, instead choosing issues important to the middle class: health care, energy policy and the war in Iraq.

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SCOTT HORSLEY: And I'm Scott Horsley in Iowa, where Hillary Clinton did spend the day campaigning along with her husband Bill.

President BILL CLINTON: Happy Labor Day.

(Soundbite of cheering)

HORSLEY: The former president introduced his wife at a Des Moines Union Rally as the best-qualified candidate he's ever had a chance to vote for, including himself. Hillary Clinton returned the compliment.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): I'm very proud that when my husband was president, we got 22 million new jobs and a lot of people were lifted out of poverty.

(Soundbite of applause)

HORSLEY: Although the event was sponsored by the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, Clinton didn't dwell on organized labor. Instead, she talked about the concerns of the broad middle class: health care, energy policy and the war in Iraq. She said the Washington connections some of her fellow Democrats have criticized are actually a key part of turning their agenda into law.

Sen. CLINTON: I want to level with you. You got to get the votes in Congress for a president to get the job done. And I'm going to continue to try to find those few Republicans who share my urgency about change.

HORSLEY: Clinton has won the backing of several major unions, including the machinists and the transportation workers. But yesterday, Democratic rival John Edwards picked up the official backing of the mine workers union and the nation's largest industrial union, the steel workers.

Iowa steel worker Randy Bolton says he supported Edwards all along.

Mr. RANDY BOLTON (Steel Worker): He doesn't have a problem mentioning unions, you know, when he mentions working people.

(Soundbite of music)

HORSLEY: Edwards did talk about unions an outdoor town hall meeting in Sheraton, Iowa last night, saying organized labor played a huge role in boosting the nation's middle class.

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Senator, Democrat, North Carolina): I've been around the country working and organizing campaigns and walking picket lines. And that's the reason. Because I think, actually, the economic security of the middle class is at stake. And to the extent we can reform our labor laws, make it easier to organize, give more power to unions to negotiate fairly, I think it's a huge part of building the middle class.

HORSLEY: Edwards spoke on a lawn outside the Lucas County Courthouse, just across the street from a Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. In front of the courthouse was a monument to the region's Civil War dead. It was erected just one year before the start of World War I.

(Soundbite of music)

HORSLEY: Yesterday, a brand new war memorial was unveiled in the small town of Neola, Iowa - population 850. Standing in a small plaza opposite the Farmers and Merchants State Bank, Arizona Senator John McCain gave thanks to those who were serving in Iraq. He acknowledged his steady support for that war has put him at odds with public opinion. But he says America is united in its support for those who are fighting there.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): Few of them and their families will have received the news about additional, longer deployments without aiming a few appropriate complaints in the general direction of people like me who helped make the decision to send them there. It's a privilege beyond measure to live in a country that's served by them.

HORSLEY: Korean War veteran Dick Scott, who'd set up a camp chair on the sidewalk, said he was moved by McCain's own military service.

Mr. DICK SCOTT (Korean War Veteran): I've got a feeling down deep there that the ones they got in there now, they don't know what it is to serve. Maybe I shouldn't feel that way about everybody. But if somebody that has gone in, served their time, that's a plus for me.

HORSLEY: Neola Mayor Don Fischer and two other veterans raised a flag into the clear blue Iowa sky where it quickly caught a late summer breeze. One spectator said she hadn't decided yet which presidential candidate she'll back in the Iowa caucuses, let alone the general election 14 months from now. The politicians may be in full campaign mode, but she says voters have a whole 'nother summer to go.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Des Moines.

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