In a rare alliance, strategists for John Edwards, Richard A. Gephardt and John F. Kerry discussed whether they could stop the Service Employees International Union from endorsing fellow Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
The union, with 1.6 million members the largest in the AFL-CIO, announced last week that its 63-member board would decide Thursday whether to endorse the former Vermont governor. "It's Dean or no one," said SEIU spokeswoman Sara Howard.
The announcement prompted top aides to Edwards, Gephardt and Kerry to convene a conference call during which they discussed whether Dean's endorsement could be blocked.
Comparing intelligence from their sources inside the union, the Edwards, Gephardt and Kerry campaigns determined that they still had an outside chance to stop Dean, according to senior officials with the three campaigns.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, differed on minor details such as how long last week's call lasted and on what day it was placed. One said it lasted 12 minutes; another said it was much longer.
They confirmed, however, that the strategists agreed that each campaign should call anybody who might help stop the endorsement. They denied any effort to coordinate the calls or messages, noting that each of the three candidates has a different constituency and appeal inside the union.
The front-running Dean campaign has accused its rivals of coordinating attacks. The opposition leveled at Dean is no greater, however, than what past front-runners have experienced.