In Pa., Clinton Distances Herself from NAFTA

At an AFL-CIO meeting in Philadelphia Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton says that she opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement in behind-the-scenes debate during her husband's administration.

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We've been hearing a lot about the Democratic superdelegates and the special role they may play in deciding who gets the Democratic nomination. Not every superdelegate is a high-profile party leader, like a senator or a governor.

Robert "Big Red" Rankin is a retired chemical worker and union leader from the city of Carson, south of Los Angeles.

Last weekend, NPR's Ina Jaffe spoke with Rankin at the California Democratic Party's convention. And she has this story for our series Backroom Primary.

INA JAFFE: It's easy to see how Robert Rankin got the nickname Big Red. He is 6'3, and even at age 70, there are still red streaks in his white hair. He's one of more than 300 superdelegates who are still undecided. But it wasn't always that way, John Edwards was his man.

Mr. ROBERT RANKIN (Union leader): Because right on the get-go, a lot of the things that John Edwards talked about was working family issues: that we need to not only protect but bring back American jobs.

JAFFE: Rankin worked at a Honeywell chemical plant for 41 years, and got active in the union there. That's what got him into politics.

Mr. RANKIN: Something struck me that one of the things that was keeping us from not getting what we needed to get in negotiations with the company was the way the laws were written.

JAFFE: So he learned to work on legislation and lobby lawmakers. One thing led to another, and he's now a member of the Democratic National Committee. He's been having a tough time choosing between the two remaining candidates. He's talked to Barack Obama on the phone and he likes him.

RANKIN: I like the fact that Barack Obama has energized people who had kind of given up in the system before because they felt that, forget about it. No one's going to take care of us. And that's good because we need, we need that.

JAFFE: But Rankin likes Hillary Clinton, too.

Mr. RANKIN: Hillary has the wealth of experience, pretty much second to none I would say. Being close to the president had to have given her some insight.

JAFFE: And while some people have belittled that wifely role, Robert Rankin isn't one of them.

Mr. RANKIN: My wife, who I've been married to 47 years - I'm a very lucky, blessed man - she offers me advice, and she should. Not that Mrs. Clinton was Mrs. President, but I'm sure that President Clinton listened to her.

JAFFE: Rankin is listening to a lot of advice lately from a lot of different people and weighing a lot of competing interests.

Mr. RANKIN: The labor issues are important to me. How my state voted is important to me. How my congressional district voted is important to me. What my wife and my daughters think is important to me.

JAFFE: So, he's decided not to decide right now. He thinks the superdelegates should just let the race run its course. Though Clinton made the same argument to California's undecided superdelegates on Sunday, but Rankin didn't stick around to hear it. He decided he'd rather fly home to be with his wife.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

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