Edwards' campaign manager David Bonior said Clinton "failed" at health care reform.
MCCORMICK, South Carolina (CNN) – As John Edwards and Hillary Clinton compete for major union endorsements, the two campaigns are trading barbs over which candidate is more qualified to serve American workers.
David Bonior, the former congressman and labor advocate who is now John Edwards’ campaign manager, told the South Carolina AFL-CIO annual convention Thursday that Edwards has populist credentials that Hillary Clinton lacks.
Speaking to about 60 union members here three days after Edwards picked up national endorsements from the United Mine Workers and the United Steelworkers of America, Bonior said “no presidential candidate in the history of the country” has worked harder than Edwards has for unions and striking workers.
“We’re a populist campaign,” said Bonior, who was the House Democratic whip from Michigan before he left Congress in 2003 after 26 years. “Senator Obama has a populist campaign. Senator Clinton doesn’t have a populist campaign. There’s a difference here. How much change do you want?”
After his speech, Bonior told CNN that Edwards has refused to take money from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, while Clinton has taken such money. That, said Bonior, makes Edwards more qualified on health care issues than Clinton.
"Senator Clinton is a good woman, but she has decided that she is going to continue taking corporate lobbyist money from the insurance industry, from the pharmaceutical industry,” Bonior said. “It's one of the reasons we haven't had health care reform, why we don't have national health care for everybody in this country. It's because they’ve controlled the system and they’ve blocked it from happening.
“[Edwards] is a populist,” he continued. “He's going to take it on and I believe his positions contrast that to Senator Clinton's. It's pretty obvious. She tried to do that 14 years ago and failed. She hasn’t come up with a health care plan since.”
Clinton spokesman Zac Wright accused the Edwards campaign of going negative.
“Hillary Clinton has the vision for universal health care in America, and she actually has the experience to do it, and no amount of baseless negative attacks can save a lagging campaign,” Wright said.
Bonior has also spoken positively in the past about Clinton’s efforts on labor issues, albeit before Clinton was in elected office.
At a Washington press conference on the minimum wage in 1999, Bonior praised Clinton when she was first lady: “There is nobody who has been more committed, more passionate about helping America's working families,” he said.
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby