Collectivism studies widely subsidized in U.S.

Liberals think that when consumption (which is known as the economy) slows, government stimulation is the antidote. This belief displays obvious ignorance of some of the immutable laws of economics.

Those economic principles remain immutable under any political party and with any form of political organization, from free-market capitalism through all forms of collectivism, including the welfare-state and all versions of socialism, including communism.

Simply put, those laws state that a society simply can't consume what it doesn't earn.

Somebody has to pay for it eventually.

Therefore, one person's consumption must be paid for by another person's work effort and output, or what's called production.

The belief that it can be otherwise, known as Keynesian economics, has failed ever since it has been tried.

The lesson is simple: as government increases taxation, regulation or inflation, production will correspondingly decrease, and, therefore, so will consumption.

Conversely, as government decreases taxation, regulation and inflation, production revives or increases and so does consumption.

So though politicians cannot increase prosperity in society, they sure can kill it.

- Adriania Schulz, West Dundee


Editor: Journalists dump neutrality for ideology

Wow. Those caucuses sure did raise heart rates in Colorado, including right here in the Rocky Mountain News newsroom. I know this may come as a surprise to some, but journalists are human. Which means they can feel the urge to participate, to share their views, to stand up for what they believe in when the opportunity arises, as it did Tuesday night. Should they?

My answer to that question, I hope, tells you a lot about how I see the role of a journalist and the necessary sacrifices that come with the job. I hope it makes clear what you should be able to expect from journalists at the Rocky, whether you're the subject of a story or a reader.

No, journalists should not get involved in politics, even if their main assignment has nothing to do with the subject. They shouldn't vote at a caucus, they shouldn't put a candidate's sign on their lawn, they shouldn't slap a bumper sticker on their car. They should do nothing that would give others the impression that they can't be trusted to strive for neutrality in their coverage.

Some argue that I go too far, that my view asks people to give up a constitutional right to free expression. My response: Of course journalists have the right to express their opinions. But if they do, they must also be prepared to accept the professional consequences.

Imagine if a reporter stood outside the Capitol on his day off with a sign protesting abortion or joined a rally advocating the legalization of drugs. It would make it impossible for him to be perceived as fair in his coverage of either issue. At the Rocky, he immediately would be barred from having anything to do with related stories.

That doesn't mean that reporters can't feel strongly about issues. However, I believe they need to be able to set their feelings aside when gathering the news. If they can't be open to differing views, they need to recuse themselves, no matter their expertise or record.

It's hard to imagine good journalists who don't pride themselves on placing the importance of accurately representing the views of others higher than the need to interject their own points of view.

There's a place for the latter kind of journalism, of course. But at a general-interest newspaper, it's the realm of columnists and editorial writers, not reporters and editors.

That's why, as a company, we hold journalists to different standards from other employees.

Our policy on political involvement says: "Journalists and others working in newsrooms must abide by a more restrictive standard (than non-journalist employees), given the disinterested neutrality from which news organizations must work. They must not serve in elected or politically appointed positions. They must not participate in political fundraising, political organizing, nor other activities designed to enhance a candidate, a political party or a political-interest organization. They must not make contributions of record to political campaigns nor engage in other such activity that might associate an employer's name with a political candidate or a political cause."

When you go to a caucus, you're expected to publicly express your support for a candidate. Under our policy, that means it's not a place for journalists. I extend my thinking to my entire staff - sportswriters and copy editors, too, for example - because today you never know who we're going to need to cover politics. This campaign season likely will see reporters from features, business and sports involved in political coverage and editors from throughout the newsroom working on everything from voter guides to coverage on Election Night.

My position triggered a grievance, then a threat of an injunction, from the Denver Newspaper Guild, which represents many of our employees.

This column isn't meant to explore that dispute in particular - which by the way was resolved amicably. Its intent is to give you an understanding of the journlistic values I hold dear - even if we sometimes fall short in the execution.

I have heard of at least one editor who so keeps himself above the fray that he doesn't even vote. I think that's going too far. However, I can tell you that I would never register as a member of a political party or participate in a caucus or even a primary.

Which brings me back to what you should be able to expect from a Rocky journalist's coverage: impartiality, neutrality.

If we don't hold to those values, the damage to the public trust will be inestimable and irrecoverable. Limiting our political activity is a small price to pay for the privilege of doing this work. At least that's the way I see it.


Teachers unions called the N.Y. Knicks of education

The New York Knicks stink. As USA Today noted on Wednesday, they're in the midst of their seventh consecutive losing season. They're in last place in their division, losing one out of every five games they've played this year, including (as this column was being written) their last six in a row. Attendance is down. Networks don't want to broadcast their games. And the team hasn't sent a player to the All-Star game since 2001.

As the old politically-incorrect joke goes, abused children are asking judges to let them live with the Knicks because "they don't beat anybody." When your operation sucks this badly, what drastic action do you take to turn things around? Well, if you're the Nevada teachers union, you'd reward the players with a raise!

That's right, the Nevada teachers union has looked at the failed public schools they control and claim that if taxpayers would just pay their union members more money, education would improve.

No, seriously. Stop laughing. They really expect you to believe that.

Of course, this notion is ridiculous. Indeed, while the Knicks are one of the worst teams in all of professional basketball, they also have one of the highest payroll of any team in the NBA. Clearly, just paying more money doesn't get better results. At least not in the real world.

Nevertheless, the union is hyping a ballot initiative this year which, if it passes, would raise taxes on Nevada's job-creating gaming industry to give pay raises to its union members. Indeed, the union's original ballot initiative (refiled this week) specified that 80 percent of the revenue raised by the tax hike had to go to higher pay for its union members, with only 20 percent being devoted to student programs.

Parents need to wake up and realize that - contrary to the rhetoric from the union's leaders and the sugary, touchy-feely ads they run - the union is all about the union, not the kids. Period. Indeed, a local Carson City education activist says he was once told by a union leader that when students start paying union dues, THEN the union would start worrying about the kids. Otherwise, let them eat cake! Nice, huh?

The problem with public schools in Nevada, and all across the country, is NOT the money. It's the government monopoly. Even Assembly Education Chairperson Bonnie Parnell, a former teacher, was quoted recently admitting that "the traditional public school setting is not for all children." And a recently released survey showed that just 11 percent of Nevada residents "said they would send their children to public school if they had the freedom to choose any available option."

But the union, along with education bureaucrats, simply won't allow parents to have such options, not even within the government school monopoly. Recall that only weeks ago the Nevada State Board of Education voted to ban any new charter schools in the state, despite the growing demand for such options.

Some 50 years ago, government agents stood in the doorways of American public schools and wouldn't let certain children in. Today government bureaucrats and union bosses are standing in public school doorways and won't let kids out. Fortunately, more and more parents finally appear to be getting tired of it. It's time to give choice a chance.

- Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit www.muthstruths.com.


UPS daddy favors no-vote unionization law

The Teamsters Union added 23,000 members last year and is on pace to add even more this year, General President Jim Hoffa said today. The Teamsters organized 5,000 UPS Freight workers in January alone, Hoffa told transportation industry representatives and reporters at the National Press Club. "We're on a very fast pace to sign these people up," he said. "We're on a roll right now."

The Teamsters represent workers in every part of America, from airline pilots to zookeepers, he said.

Recently the Teamsters negotiated the biggest industrial contract in the United States with UPS. The contract covers 240,000 workers.

Hoffa pointed out that U.S. labor unions added members in 2007 for the first time in 25 years, despite seven years of the Bush administration.

"They have basically declared war on unions," Hoffa said. "We're not going to miss George."

He declined so say, however, whether the Teamsters would endorse Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for president. "I'm not telling you," he said.

He did say the Teamsters will only endorse House and Senate candidates who will vote for the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which will allow employees to form unions by signing cards that authorize representation.

EFCA passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate. "You talk about something that can jump start the American labor movement, that's it," Hoffa said.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.


News Guild reporters OK leftist power-grabs

I groaned when I saw the headlines Friday about Fabian Nunez blaming Proposition 93's loss on the failure to pair its changes in term limits with redistricting reform, with Fab hinting he might get aboard the governor's push for such reform.

The truth is Democrats are gearing up for a post-2010 census gerrymander that will brutalize state Republicans to a historic extreme. Behind the scenes, Dem operatives already are gleefully anticipating a redrawing of political districts that gives them three-quarters of congressional and state Senate seats and more than two-thirds of Assembly seats -- a redrawing that would both help Dems control the House of Representatives and give Sacramento Dems a veto-proof majority.

In other words, the real story isn't redistricting reform. It's plans for radical redistricting abuse. Wake up, Sacramento media! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!

If you don't believe me, start asking around. It's not just experts like Tony Quinn. Last month, I asked one of California's most respected political insiders which was more likely: redistricting reform or a 2011 gerrymander that would make Tom Delay's and Texas Republicans' look like pattycake. He laughed and found it hard to believe it was a serious question.


Because redistricting reform has never caught the public's imagination. It's too dry and arcane.

But building a congressional delegation with a 40 to 14 Democratic edge in a state that should be 30-24, or building legislative majorities that can do whatever they want, unhindered by the threat of a gubernatorial veto? That's a momentous power grab that will pay dividends for a decade. All the good-government and editorial-board whining in the world won't dissuade state Dems from pursuing it.

Nevertheless, articles about reform outnumber articles about the coming power play by an enormous margin. Why?

I don't get it.


Prog victory in seniority-scam defeat

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata weren't able to fool enough of them on Super Tuesday. In the campaign for Proposition 93, Nunez and Perata had all the advantages:

They had the money, which poured in from all of Sacramento's special interests. Nunez even shook down his subordinates in the Assembly - who know better than to cross the man who calls the shots - for $50,000 contributions.

They had the ballot language, thanks to Attorney General Jerry Brown. Brown wrote up a misleading description to make Proposition 93 appear as though it would tighten up term limits when really it would weaken them - for the sole purpose of keeping Nunez, Perata and their pals in office.

They had the right election. With the vote coming on Super Tuesday, many voters who were there only to elect a president - and who knew nothing of Proposition 93 other than what they read on Brown's bogus ballot - were casting votes.

They even had Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who flip-flopped and endorsed Proposition 93, even though he previously said he wouldn't support the measure unless it was accompanied by redistricting reform.

Nunez and Perata had everything going for them - everything, that is, except for the truth.

And on Tuesday, the truth won out.

But it was an uphill battle. Back in October, 49 percent of Californians said they were in favor of Proposition 93, compared with just 31 percent opposed.

Aiding the truth in its cause were the media, which exposed the lies behind Proposition 93. And the role of Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner - who spent $2.5 million of his own money to defeat the measure - cannot be overstated.

This is a good moment for California. For once, the people have triumphed over the self-interest of politicians.


SEIU sees dues-growth in gov't-run health-care

The Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU) launched a sweeping, $75 million campaign to elect a pro-health care president and Congress and to make health care affordable for all Americans.

“A victory in the voting booth only matters if it translates into real help for the millions of American families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. “So, our members will be working around the country to elect a new President on November 4 with the mandate to fix our broken health care system. And on November 5, we will hit the ground running to make that mandate a reality.”

On Feb.6, SEIU’s chapter in the state of Washington announced it was endorsing presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. The union, which has about 100,000 members statewide, previously endorsed former Sen. John Edwards, who dropped out of the race Jan. 30 after a dismal showing in early contests.

As part of its campaign, SEIU will work in the following ways to make health care the central issue in the election and to help elect a president committed to fixing the health care system:

* Paid advertising in targeted markets will draw sharp distinctions between the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees’ approach to health care, and what those differences will mean to working families.

* Beginning in March, “The Road to Health Care,” a nationwide tour, will travel through battleground states on its way to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, stopping in communities small and large to highlight real people who are struggling to afford health care.

* SEIU’s one million health care workers, who are on the front lines of the health care crisis, will draw upon their unique understanding of the issue to demand real solutions.

* Organizers will collect thousands of health care stories, giving voice to the millions of people with and without coverage who are finding it impossible to keep up with rising health care costs.

* SEIU’s Americans for Health Care project, which already has played a key role in passing health care legislation in states like Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts, will continue to recruit and mobilize hundreds of thousands of “Health Care Voters” who pledge only to support candidates who make health care a top priority.

In addition, SEIU will continue to partner with consumer groups, activist organizations and leaders from the business community in issue-based coalitions working to solve the health care crisis.

“Americans want change, and it’s time make the dream of affordable health care a reality for everyone in this country,” Burger said. “SEIU members are ready to seize this moment, and help build a new American health care system for all working families.”


Strikes end as union members vote to decertify

Long-running strikes against Detroit-based Edward C. Levy Co. at Burns Harbor and East Chicago have technically come to an end, but the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, AFL-CIO vows to continue to fight.

Employees of Levy Co. have voted overwhelmingly to decertify Local 150 at both its Burns Harbor and East Chicago plants, the company said Thursday. The National Labor Relations Board certified the results of both elections, legally ending Local 150's strike, which began in 2005.

John Guydan, vice president for Levy's steel mill services, said the outcome means the union has no legal basis to picket or boycott Levy at any of its three locations.

David Fagan, financial officer for Local 150 out of Merrillville, said the union has filed a motion of reconsideration with the NLRB based on new evidence within the last few days.

Fagan also said that it was no surprise that employees hired during a strike would vote not to have a union.

The dispute started in Burns Harbor in August 2005, five months after Levy's contract with the union expired. After workers walked off their jobs at U.S. Steel Gary Works and ArcelorMittal's East Chicago plants despite a no-strike clause in their collective bargaining agreement, Levy hired temporary workers to continue operating.

Eventually, the National Labor Relations Board said Levy could hire new workers at those sites. Those employees now make more than $20 an hour on average, according to the release.

Negotiations between Levy and Local 150 continued until March 2006. When no agreement could be reached, Levy converted the temporary workers to permanent replacement workers.


UAW union-dues can't support strike-pay

More than a week after members of United Auto Workers Local 2069 walked out of the Volvo Trucks North America plant, picked up picket signs and began striking, their standoff with Volvo continues.

And, if a recent visit to the picket line provides any indication, their enthusiasm remains unchecked. On Wednesday, about 30 union members stood outside the Dublin (VA) plant's entance waving signs, laughing and calling out for passing motorists to "blow that horn!"

"This is our future," explained Carol Burton, a 45-year-old Dublin resident who installed truck cabs before going on strike. "We'll stay out here as long as it takes." Yet as the strike moves into its second week and Volvo's 1.6 million-square-foot truck plant remains quiet, financial forces are likely to start impinging on both the union's and Volvo's ability to hold out.

Who will fold first?

That depends, industry and labor relations experts say. But issues such as truck inventory, union member preparation and a weakening economy are expected to come into play if the strike continues for several weeks.

"If it's a very short strike -- a couple days -- that doesn't mean too much," said Kenneth Kremar, a New York-based analyst with Global Insight who follows the truck and trailer industries. "The million-dollar question is how long do they let it go? And it depends on how tough the union wants to be and how tough the management wants to be.

"My suspicion," Kremar added, "is if this goes on for more than a couple of weeks, Volvo's going to feel it fairly significantly in their numbers."

This year, however, wasn't anticipated to be a blockbuster one.

"As expected, demand in North America remains low, reflecting the weakening economy," reads Volvo's recently released year-end report. "This has resulted in lower profitability in the transport industry along with a relatively high level of inventories of new trucks at the dealers.

"Forecasting the market is difficult," the report continues, "but current expectations are a demand for trucks in 2008 on the same level as in 2007."

And 2007 was hardly a banner year.

Hit hard by new emissions standards that raised truck prices and caused customers to pre-buy trucks in 2006, Volvo Trucks has said it suffered a 46 percent decline in net sales in North America from 2006 to 2007.

A weakening economy and high fuel prices have also taken their toll, said Edgar Miller, general manager of Truck Enterprises' dealerships in Harrisonburg and Roanoke.

"Truck sales, I think, are at at least a 10-year low, if not 15," Miller estimated.

As a result, Volvo is unlikely to be pressed by unfilled orders -- at least not yet.

And this, Kremar said, may be a factor in how long the company can withstand a strike.

The Dublin plant is the only facility in North America that assembles Volvo's line of heavy-duty trucks.

Yet with the strike claiming more than 2,460 of the plant's 2,900 employees, it's unclear when production there might resume.

"It's too soon to say," Volvo spokesman John Mies said Thursday. "We're still exploring all the options for getting production up and running as soon as we can."

In the meantime, he noted, "there is a certain amount of inventory that exists at the dealer level so, depending on the specifications of the truck that a customer wants, there is still some availability in the short term."

Mies declined to define "short term," but Miller said, at least at this point, the strike hasn't been too problematic for Truck Enterprises, an eight-location truck dealer that sells Volvo, Kenworth and GMC trucks.

"There are less sales and we have a good amount of inventory in stock right now," he said.

Issues could arise, however, if a customer wants a specialty truck or if the economy picks back up, Miller said, and there's always the possibility that inconvenience could drive customers to Volvo's competitors.

"The longer it goes, the more difficult it is, because if it gets into a situation where they're really at loggerheads, potential equipment buyers will say, 'I can go and turn to someone else to supply my truck,' " Kremar said.

While Volvo faces the threat of lost orders, UAW Local 2069 must contend with its own set of strike-related pressures.

Chief among them is the ability of members to withstand financial hardship while off the job.

Throughout the strike, the union pays members $200 a week in exchange for spending four hours on the line picketing. The sum is a far cry from the average $21 to $22 an hour employees earn at Volvo, and because of that, many workers have scaled down their spending significantly.

"You do a lot of cutting back," Burton said. "You cut DirecTV and Internet, quit eating out, shopping."

These habits may not be a big deal in the short term, but over several weeks, or even months, the lost income could weaken union members' resolve.

Speaking about strikes generally, Kent Murrmann, an associate professor in Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business, said, "After a period of time, being away from the job is not what people want and so they get restless about getting back to the job. The union doesn't want to use up its strike fund entirely and has limited resources, so it has to make sure the issues it's striking on are really supported by the members."

Both officials and members say the strike has the union's full backing.

When UAW Local 2069 first voted to authorize a strike Jan. 28, the vote passed with 95 percent of the vote.

"Naturally everybody's concerned about the financial well-being of their families," said striker Mark Montgomery. "But sometimes you got to do what you got to do."

"No strike is good for anybody's monetary needs," agreed UAW Local 2069 President Lester Hancock. "But they're out here for the long term [and] they knew it, so I think they've been getting prepared for a while."

Members' strike pay, Hancock added, is paid from a pot of union dues and won't run out anytime soon.

"There's a lot of money," he said. "It would take several, several months before that would happen."

And a strike of that duration would hit both sides hard.

"A strike is always a sacrifice for both union employees and the employer," Murrmann said. "It's not something that either party enters into lightly."


News Union threatens paper with strike

More than 600 workers at the Honolulu Advertiser are taking a step closer to a strike in their contract dispute with the newspaper. At their next meeting on Feb. 17, members of the Hawaii Newspaper and Printing Trades Council will vote on whether to give their negotiating committee authority to call a strike against the Gannett Co. Inc. unit.

"I always have hopes that we're going to settle this thing with a reasonable contract," said Wayne Cahill, administrative officer for the Hawaiian Newspaper Guild, one of six unions jointly negotiating with Gannett. "But the company put the final offer on the table, and hasn't made any changes or any move since then."

Gannett's representative, labor attorney John Jaske, presented the final offer for a two-year contract on Jan. 25 with terms the union still disagrees with - an increase in medical premiums and a one-year freeze on wages.

Gannett also threatened to unilaterally implement the proposal, said Cahill, if the union chooses not to accept it within 30 days.

"We think they would be violating federal law if they did, and we would of course take appropriate action," he said.

Lee Webber, president and publisher of the Advertiser, did not return calls for comment by presstime yesterday.

Gannett's offer would require members covered by Kaiser to pay 15 percent of the premium plus the difference between the cost of Kaiser and HMSA. It would also freeze wages from June 2007 to June 2008, offering instead a 1.5 percent bonus. Starting June 2008, Gannett is proposing only a 1 percent pay increase.

The union says this does not keep pace with the more than 5 percent inflation reported in the Advertiser itself.

Also, the union opposes Gannett's proposal changing the payroll from weekly to bi-weekly, which would require a skipped paycheck in order to transition to the new system.

"When our members lose a paycheck, it's disastrous," said Cahill.

Gannett has offered a bridge loan for employees who would need one to tide them over, but it would have to be paid back within a few weeks.

Workers' contracts were originally scheduled to expire last June, but have been extended during negotiations, which started up again in May.

But a flurry of meetings in November and December last year did not result in much progress, having lasted no more than an hour, according to the union.


Union official guilty of fraud, theft, conspiracy

Former union shop steward Michael Annucci, also known as Mickey Annucci, has been found guilty following an eight day trial of charges relating to his participation in a scheme to defraud the benefit funds of the New York City District Council of Carpenters of at least half a million dollars.

Annucci served as a shop steward for the District Council, an executive delegate to the District Council representing Local 157 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and a member of the District Council’s trial committee, which imposed discipline on carpenters who broke union rules.

From July 2001 through February 2006, Annucci was the shop steward for a Manhattan jobsite of L&D Installers, Inc., a furniture installation and construction contractor. L&D was a party to a collective bargaining agreement with the District Council, pursuant to which L&D was obligated to pay all of its workers at a specified hourly rate and to make contributions for each hour worked to District Council benefit funds, which provide life insurance, hospitalization, medical care, pension and vacation benefits to union members.

As a shop steward, Annucci was required to enforce the CBA by submitting weekly reports to the District Council setting forth the hours worked by each of carpenters assigned to the job site. The union’s auditors rely on the accuracy of shop steward reports in auditing contractors to ensure that all benefits contributions have been paid.

Annucci, however, omitted more than 22,000 hours from his shop steward reports, thereby enabling L&D to cheat the benefit funds out of hundreds of thousands of dollars it owed. As a result, carpenters got paid lower wages and lost credit towards pension, vacation and retirement benefits, and some lost their health coverage. At the same time, Annucci received full benefits, was regularly paid for overtime hours that he did not work, and was paid for at least 80 days off.

Co-conspirator Frank Proscia, who succeeded Annucci as L&D’s shop steward in February 2006, pleaded guilty in October 2007 to one count of aiding and abetting the embezzlement of monies from District Council benefit funds.

Annucci is scheduled to be sentenced May 7. Proscia is scheduled to be sentenced on March 7.

Annucci was convicted of one count of wire fraud on which he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment - and of conspiracy, theft of union benefit funds, and unlawful acceptance of payments by a union representative on each of which he faces a maximum of five years’ imprisonment.


Newspaper Guild takes dues hit in Minnesota

The bloodletting continues at Minnesota's largest daily newspaper. The latest news is that up to seven employees in the Star Tribune's photo department will be terminated. The impacted employees work in the "gray room" processing photos. They were informed yesterday that their duties will be taken over by computer software.

Under the Newspaper Guild's union contract, the company must give 90-days notice prior to any job cuts. During that period, negotiations will take place on the fate of the workers and what kind of severance package they will receive.

Union co-chair David Chanen says they hope to save at least one photo-processing position. "We're not overly optimistic that we're going to be able to salvage more than the one job, but we're looking at every option," he says.


Dems regard Labor-Latinos as racial bloc

Super Tuesday, which included primaries in six states with large Latino populations, shed some light on the presidential picks of America's largest minority. Yet, given the results, questions remain. Latino voters are coveted, but they're also complicated.

They have conservative values but tend to support liberal policies. They care about the issues all Americans care about - from education to health care to the Iraq war - but take special interest in the immigration debate. Most of all, Latinos remain loyal to the Democratic Party, though they've shown a tendency to cross party lines to support moderate Republicans they find more likable or attentive to their interests.

At the moment, many Latinos are choosing between Democratic presidential candidates.

Even that can get complicated.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton played her best game in the larger states. In California, New York and New Jersey, it was her strong support from Latinos that helped her win.

According to CNN exit polls, Clinton got 69 percent of the Latino vote in California and 73 percent in New York.

Even so, Clinton didn't do nearly as well with Latinos as recent polls suggested.

She lost the Latino vote in Colorado and Illinois, states she lost to Obama.

In Arizona, which she won, she barely squeaked out a majority of the Latino vote - 55 percent.

For months, in surveys of Latino voters, Clinton had better than a 2-to-1 advantage over Obama. That kind of dominance came to an end last week.

On Super Tuesday, Obama closed the gap, perhaps because of his support from younger Latinos or because more Latinos are becoming more comfortable with someone who, until only recently, was an unknown commodity.

In January, Obama won 26 percent of the Latino vote in Nevada. On Tuesday, he won the same percentage in New York. He improved on that California (29 percent) and Arizona (41 percent). In Illinois, it was 50 percent.

The good news for Obama is the Latino vote is trending in his direction at a good time. There's a March 4 primary in Texas, where about 20 percent of registered voters are Latino.

Obama campaign officials claimed all along that once Latinos got to know the candidate, they'd consider him simpatico.

That's swell. But Obama never is going to win a name-ID contest with Hillary Clinton, who benefits enormously from a brand that's still pretty well regarded in the Latino community.

Besides, look at the calendar. Team Obama is running out of time to get acquainted with Latinos. Obama strategists were slow to figure out how important the Latino vote would be. That gave Team Clinton time to get a big head start, line up endorsements and set up a ground operation aimed specifically at Latinos.

When Obama did decide to get serious about seeking the Latino vote, he chose the wrong strategy.

Instead of reaching into the future and talking about where Latinos were headed and how he would help take them there, Obama reached into the history books and played up the friendship between civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and labor leader Cesar Chavez.

The Clinton campaign undercut the story line by getting the endorsement of the United Farm Workers Union, the organization Chavez helped create.

Only recently did the Obama campaign figure out its entree into the Latino community isn't through the old guard of the baby boom generation but through younger voters who might have no firsthand memory of Chavez and no particular fondness for the Clintons.

So now, it's on to Texas, where Obama again could improve on his performance with Latinos by sticking to the basics and continuing to inspire voters.

That won't be easy. Clinton has a strong operation, a south Texas-based Democratic political consultant told me.

Her campaign got there early, and it lined up the endorsements of such old-guard figures as Henry Cisneros. Still, the consultant said, the state could go either way.

Latinos will have a lot to say about which way it goes.


Communist Party USA chief lauds Dems

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