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Democrats playing a dangerous game

The dues of millions of union members, intuitively those of New York members, are being poured into the Florida Republican presidential primary in a move of surpassing cynicism.

Coordinating with the National Democratic Committee and the Obama re-election campaign, the unions are campaigning to make Newt Gingrich the winner there Tuesday, and the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

Florida isn't even a union state, and labor unions could not have a more dedicated foe than this unhorsed House speaker with the interesting behavior patterns.

This may be the best indicator yet of how panicked President Obama and his Democrats are at the prospect of his facing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee in November.

Chuck Todd of MSNBC last week broke the story of the ad buy of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees denouncing Romney. Other political blogs then reported Service Employees International Union ads also were attacking Romney on immigration issues.

Obama's super PAC, Priorities USA Action, is coordinating a parallel campaign against Romney in the Florida primary with money from the SEIU. The union and Priorities spending there is clocked at upward of $6 million.

The SEIU mainly represents hospital and building maintenance workers. The 55,000-member Public Employees Federation of New York is an affiliate of the SEIU. The federation is the second largest public workers union in the state. It was a holdout against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's budget-cutting initiatives last fall, only to yield when Cuomo threatened massive layoffs.

AFSCME and SEIU members in New York and other union states have no real say about where their political contributions go. Dues checkoffs are effectively compulsory in New York, but ironically not in right-to-work states like Florida.

The SEIU is heavily invested in Obama, having endorsed his re-election two months ago. The Wall Street Journal said the SEIU spent $85 million on Obama's 2008 Democratic campaign, putting the union in the hole by $25 million. AFSCME endorsed Obama last month.

The unions and the Obama super PAC saw a sudden opportunity to knock off Romney when Gingrich walloped him in the South Carolina primary. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz quickly scheduled a news conference in Florida last week to blast not the whole GOP panel, but only Romney. The Democrats trotted out people who said they lost jobs as a result of Romney's venture capitalism, and recruited others to fine comb Romney's tax returns, but not Gingrich's.

The Obama campaign even deployed Hispanic Florida state legislators to outline how Romney -- not Gingrich -- would be bad for their people. On Friday, the DNC put out a video, "Romney vs. the truth." No mention of Gingrich. So we junkies are seeing one of the oddest juxtapositions in U.S. political history leading to Tuesday.

On one side are Republicans of every stripe trying to derail Gingrich. These include former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, pundit Joe Scarborough, Long Island Rep. Peter King, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy and former assistant secretary of state Eliot Abrams.

On the other side soldiers the entire apparatus of the DNC trying to push forward the prospects of a man former GOP colleagues say is a dangerous, conflicted demagogue -- Democrats heedless of what Gingrich might be capable of even given the slim chance of his actual election.

Think Newt Gingrich with the nuclear "football," and absolute power over the FBI, the CIA, the IRS, federal surveillance agencies and the armed forces. Is this a risk union members and many thinking Democrats would be willing to take, given a real choice?

email: dturner@buffnews.com