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Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is known for sometimes trying too hard, shifting his views with those of the audience he is addressing. Which gives us these words of praise for unions we might have expected more from Barack Obama than any Republican looking to replace him.

“Unions have played a very important role historically in balancing in some cases the egregious actions of some employers and have been important to the development of our economy,” Romney told those gathered for a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire this morning.

Presumably, this is Mitt Romney continuing his straight-to-the-general-election push, but he needs to be careful not to be too nice to unions, a favorite punching bag of Republicans, seeing as how they fight for workers’ rights and for middle class benefit packages and all.

The historical precedent here is Ronald Reagan peeling off union voters in 1980 and 1984 from their traditional Democratic affiliation. And indeed, even in his successful 2008 run, Barack Obama won only 59 percent of the vote in union households, suggesting that older, white members remain alienated from their traditional party, and that social issues–as opposed to economic ones–significantly affect some members’ voting behavior. [Politico]

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