Bernie Sanders wins new union backing. How's he doing on endorsements?

Sen. Bernie Sanders was endorsed by the Communication Workers of America Thursday. Hillary Clinton is probably not shaking.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Communication Workers of America office in Washington Thursday after the union endorsed Senator Sanders in the Democratic presidential race.

Bernie Sanders just won a big union endorsement. On Thursday the Communications Workers of America announced that a vote of their rank-and-file picked the senator from Vermont as the group’s choice for the Democratic presidential race. 

This is a big get for Senator Sanders, maybe his best endorsement yet. The CWA has 700,000 tech and telecommunications members and thus has some real financial and organizational power.

“Their endorsement is not just a paper endorsement,” said Sanders at a joint Washington appearance with CWA officials. “We’re going to have thousands of people on the ground knocking doors, making phone calls and helping us.”

This boost may be diluted only somewhat by the fact that it is far from a surprise. Former CWA president Larry Cohen has been an unpaid adviser to the Sanders campaign. The group has been very vocal in its opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which Sanders has assailed.

Still, Sanders does have a real endorsement problem. As in, he does not have many compared to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Clinton has the backing of some 18 national labor unions and alliances, with a total worker population of about 11 million people. Even if some of those endorsements were mainly the work of politically-connected leaders, as opposed to the desire of members, they’ll still produce a lot of action on primary election days.

And on another type of endorsement, Clinton has completely crushed all her Democratic rivals. Many political scientists think the backing of elected officials and other party insiders is a crucial measure in contested primaries. That’s because these nods send cross-organization signals about who backs whom, and whom to support, develop into a kind of rough party consensus on nominees.

The folks at the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight have produced an “Endorsement Primary” model to track these picks. It weights them for importance – a governor’s endorsement is worth more than senator’s, which in turn is worth more than that of a representative.

Their latest Democratic score for Clinton vs. Sanders is 455 to 2. That disparity is so wide that it is unprecedented for a nonincumbent Democratic candidate, the site notes.

Ah well, Sanders did also announce today that he’s hit a goal of receiving nearly 2 million individual campaign contributions. That may or may not be a record. But it’s another chunk of news the Sanders campaign is using to try and convey a new sense of momentum with voting now only a few weeks off and the polls of the Democratic race largely unchanged since October. 

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