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WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump posted a string of retweets early Wednesday that appeared to counter a notion that Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden has the backing of the country's firefighters.

The national firefighters' union endorsed Biden, the former vice president, on Monday, just days after he announced his campaign to run for the Democratic nomination. During his first campaign speech the same day, Biden positioned himself as the best president for union workers, a group of voters who supported Trump more than expected in the 2016 election.

"I make no apologies. I am a union man. Period," Biden said in his speech.

Trump posted about 60 retweets Wednesday from Twitter users as evidence to the contrary.

"I've done more for Firefighters than this dues sucking union will ever do, and I get paid ZERO!" Trump wrote in one Twitter post between dozens of retweets.

Typically, labor unions support Democratic candidates, but Trump garnered more support from union workers in the 2016 election than some of his Republican predecessors. Some union leaders attributed this to his populist messages on the economy that resonated with union voters.

After the 2016 election, the president of the United Steelworkers union, which had endorsed the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, sent a letter to its members acknowledging the political divide of its membership and concerns about the slow economic gains since the George W. Bush administration.

"Donald Trump used our own words to speak to these problems, and to the real suffering, fears and anxieties that so many feel," the union's president, Leo W. Gerard, wrote.

There has always been a slice of union workers who vote Republican, said Joseph McCartin, a history professor at Georgetown University who specializes in labor unions. Trump's support, he said, is likely higher among white male union members in the construction trade and law enforcement.

But the president's current rhetoric that union leaders are out of step with their rank-and-file members is a departure from his 2016 approach, suggesting that Trump feels threatened by what Biden could bring to a Democratic ticket, McCartin said.

"Most of what is happening here is a battle for the margins," McCartin said.

Though Clinton received the majority of the union votes in 2016, Trump drew just enough to make a difference. Former President Ronald Reagan had similar success with this strategy in 1980, drawing enough union support away from then-President Jimmy Carter, McCartin said.

"I think Biden has a really strong appeal to some of the very same voters that Trump has tried to cultivate among the labor movement," he said.

Since Biden officially joined a group of now 20 Democrats competing to win the party's nomination, Trump has narrowed his focus on the former vice president, calling him "Sleepy Joe" and "not the brightest light bulb."

On Monday, after the International Association of Fire Fighters threw its support behind Biden, a longtime ally of the labor union, Trump appeared to dismiss the endorsement and pit union members against union leadership.

"The Dues Sucking firefighters leadership will always support Democrats, even though the membership wants me. Some things never change!" he wrote on Twitter.

Biden gave his first speech as a 2020 presidential contender Monday in his birth state of Pennsylvania -- a state that is critical to Democratic efforts to reclaim the Oval Office next year. In 2016, Democrats lost the state to Trump by 44,000 votes.

In a Twitter post Monday, Trump wrote that Biden "obviously doesn't know that Pennsylvania is having one of the best economic years in its history, with lowest unemployment EVER, a now thriving Steel Industry (that was dead) & great future."

A Section on 05/02/2019

Print Headline: Via tweet, Trump tells firemen he's got their back, not Biden

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