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Union president wants Republican members to re-register as Democrats to caucus for Biden, whether they support him or not


A member of the International Association of Firefighters shows support for Joe Biden during a campaign rally at Big Grove Brewery. Wednesday, May 1, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

If Harold Schaitberger gets his way, some Trump-supporting Republicans in Iowa will re-register as Democrats on Monday night and caucus for Joe Biden, before switching back to the GOP and voting for Trump in the general election. And Schaitberger might get his way, because he’s the president of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF).

The IAFF was the first union to endorse Biden, declaring its support for him just four days after Biden announced his candidacy on April 25.

“Joe’s a lot like our firefighters,” Schaitberger, whose been IAFF president since 2000, said when the union issued its endorsement. “He’s a problem solver who cares deeply about America and committed to making our country better. He’s one of the staunchest advocates for working families.”

The pitch Schaitberger made to members of IAFF Local 15 in Council Bluffs on Wednesday was less high-minded. Speaking in front of an audience that included reporters, the union president encouraged everyone to caucus for Biden, whether or not they actually want him to be president, the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel reported on Thursday.

“For those of you here who I know will likely never vote for Joe Biden, I’m going to say like it is,” Schaitberger said at the IAFF Local 15. “I’ve talked to Republican members all over this state. The rules still allow you that night to change your party designation, and to caucus for Joe Biden. And then, if you choose, you change your party designation back, and then vote for who you may choose to vote for.”

As Schaitberger spoke, two firefighters raced out of their seats to handle an emergency. “Some of you say, well, why would you why would we do that?” Schaitberger asked. “Why would I, as a Republican? What I would say to you is, very likely, you’re going to wake up one Wednesday morning in November, and you’re going to have a Democratic elected president. Why would you not want to use your influence, your power, to make sure that if that happens, that your president is someone who has had your back over this entire journey?”

What Schaitberger suggested is perfectly legal, but there are two obvious reasons supporters of a candidate don’t typically promote such a strategy in front of reporters.

First, it appears to indicate a lack of confidence in a candidate’s ability to win without some sort of extraordinary intervention. Second, it could create questions about how legitimate the support for a candidate at the caucus is.

The IAFF has 36 locals in Iowa, and approximately 1,600 members. Schaitberger has been campaigning for Biden across Iowa this week.


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