Can Donald Trump win the labor vote? Here's why he's going after Bernie Sanders supporters

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'Bernie,' 'The Donald,' and 'Hillary' Speak at Middle School Graduation

It's a plan so crazy that it just might work — or it might not be that crazy at all.

Badly in need of moderate and independent voters' support in November, on Thursday, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made an all-out play for union members' backing.

Read more: From Punchline to Presumptive Nominee: Donald Trump's Wild and Unpredictable Journey

The billionaire's pitch to the working man and woman came as Democrat Hillary Clinton, unsurprisingly, scored the support of the AFL-CIO, the labor umbrella group representing some 12.5 million members.

Trump pointedly invoked Clinton primary rival Bernie Sanders in a lengthy statement arguing that he, not Clinton, would be a better choice for union voters.

Click through some of Donald Trump's most controversial tweets:

Craziest Donald Trump Tweets
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Craziest Donald Trump Tweets
I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite They picked person who is ruining Germany
I would like to wish everyone, including all haters and losers (of which, sadly, there are many) a truly happy and enjoyable Memorial Day!
Just made the point at #NCGOPcon that "we have to protect our border & I think everyone here knows, nobody can build a wall like Trump!"
My twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.
China's Communist Party has now publicly praised Obama's reelection. They have never had it so good. Will own America soon.
While Jon Stewart is a joke, not very bright and totally overrated, some losers and haters will miss him & his dumb clown humor. Too bad!
Why is Obama playing basketball today? That is why our country is in trouble!
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.
Remember, I said Derek don't sell your Trump World Tower apartment...its been lucky for you. The day after he sold it, he broke his foot.
I never fall for scams. I am the only person who immediately walked out of my ‘Ali G’ interview
.@cher--I don’t wear a “rug”—it’s mine. And I promise not to talk about your massive plastic surgeries that didn’t work.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
.@katyperry is no bargain but I don't like John Mayer--he dates and tells--be careful Katy (just watch!).
.@BetteMidler talks about my hair but I'm not allowed to talk about her ugly face or body --- so I won't. Is this a double standard?
It's Thursday. How much money did Barack Obama waste today on crony green energy projects?
Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain. He was terrible at DEBATE!
Hey @realDonaldTrump - In case you're looking for that tweet you deleted .. I got it right here.
This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice
Everyone knows I am right that Robert Pattinson should dump Kristen Stewart. In a couple of years, he will thank me. Be smart, Robert.
26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?
Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure,it's not your fault
How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived

"Hillary Clinton and her husband have made hundreds of millions of dollars doing favors and selling access to Wall Street, special interests and oppressive foreign regimes," Trump's statement reads.

"As Bernie Sanders said, 'Why, over her political career, has Wall Street been the major campaign contributor to Hillary Clinton?'" Trump continued, clearly trying to capitalize on Clinton's enthusiasm gap with so-called #BernieOrBust voters. "They own Hillary Clinton and she will do whatever they tell her to."

It's far from clear that union members would flock to the presumptive Republican nominee in a big way, despite Trump's somewhat protectionist views on trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But New York City Councilman Joseph Borelli, a Staten Island Republican and co-chairman of Trump's campaign operation in New York, says the real-estate magnate's team is smart to present a sharp contrast with Clinton to workers in Rust Belt swing states. If Trump could peel off states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, his path to victory would be much clearer.

"You [saw] Bernie Sanders making a significant dent in Democratic support in those states," Borelli said in an interview. "And a lot of union members are moderate Democrats: They're Democrats by enrollment, but perhaps not Democrats by ideology."

Can Donald Trump Win the Labor Vote? Here's Why He's Going After Bernie Sanders Supporters
Source: Alex Brandon/AP

He continued: "If you're someone in a swing state who has seen an economic downturn mostly as a result of the economic policies of both establishment Democrats and Republicans, yeah, I think you might strongly consider voting for Donald Trump — despite what your union might say."

Fear factor: The union did speak up after Trump ominously suggested a Clinton presidency would "economically destroy poor communities, African-American and Hispanic workers on trade, immigration, crime, energy, taxes, regulation and everything else."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the Republican out on Twitter, suggesting Trump's attempts to woo labor didn't square with his apparent past disinterest in the travails of union workers.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and executive vice president of the 1.3 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, is also unconvinced Trump will have real appeal to labor voters.

"When union members look at this race seriously and think about the things Donald Trump has said that would impact their work lives, they will be running to the voting booths to vote for Hillary Clinton," Appelbaum, a Clinton superdelegate from New York, said in an interview.

Can Donald Trump Win the Labor Vote? Here's Why He's Going After Bernie Sanders Supporters
Source: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Trump "says he admires Scott Walker, who took a sledgehammer to unions in Wisconsin. He rails against trade deals — but then claims that outsourcing creates jobs. His Trump-branded products are made overseas in places like Mexico and China," Appelbaum said.

"People may be angry, but Trump's approach would make things worse for working people. And as working people understand who Trump is and what he's about, they will not support him — because he does not support them."

Nothing to lose but the White House: There's no question Trump — who's been attacked as a union-buster by critics of his career in real estate — may have an uphill battle in convincing traditionally Democratic labor voters to come his way.

And even as the GOP hopeful tries to persuade moderates and disaffected Sanders supporters to vote for him, pro-Clinton union forces are making their own deliberate attempt to pull Trump voters across the aisle.

Upshot: Trump's courtship of labor may not end in a true romance. But the fact that his team is putting up a fight for those voters at the very least signals a realization that primary season is over and it's time to think outside the traditional GOP box.

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