WASHINGTON - Sen. Barack Obama won an endorsement from the powerful Teamsters union yesterday, critical labor support for the Democratic front-runner with upcoming contests in Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania.
"There was very, very strong support for him" among the union's members, said James P. Hoffa, president of the 1.4-million member union.
Mr. Hoffa met with Mr. Obama yesterday in Texas, site of the next Democratic primary against Sen. Hillary Clinton. The Teamsters endorsement is expected to help Mr. Obama there and in Ohio on March 4, and in Pennsylvania on April 22.
The Teamsters have 80,000 members in Pennsylvania, 60,000 in Ohio, and 17,000 in Texas, Mr. Hoffa said.
The Teamsters also plan to have their members and their families from across the country work for Mr. Obama, the Teamsters leader said.
"We're going to say, 'Yes, yes, we can elect Barack Obama,'•" Mr. Hoffa said. " ... He's got the best chance to win in the November elections."
Mr. Obama's wins Tuesday in Wisconsin and Hawaii helped seal the endorsement, Mr. Hoffa said.
Mrs. Clinton has lost 10 contests in a row to Mr. Obama.
"We see the trends and we're impressed by the momentum of the Barack Obama campaign," said Mr. Hoffa, who noted that the union's executive board voted unanimously to endorse Mr. Obama.
Internal polling of the union's members also showed they preferred Mr. Obama and that they thought he would do better against Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Hoffa said.