Mike Huckabee met privately for an hour Wednesday afternoon with the AFL-CIO's executive council.
The former Arkansas governor was the only Republican presidential candidate who responded to a questionnaire from the federation and to appear seeking an endorsement.
Huckabee knows he will never get an endorsement from the overwhelmingly Democratic group. But the fact he showed up helps him make the argument that he is a different kind of Republican—his campaign hopes he can make inroads with more blue-collar union households who identify with his brand of conservatism.
"I want to be the president for all of America, not just for people who are already hard-core Republicans," Huckabee said at a post-event press conference in Silver Spring, Md. "I'm kind of surprised that I'm the only Republican who is here."
Huckabee's skepticism about trade deals may have gone over well at the AFL-CIO, but I suspect these remarks didn't:
Asked about collective bargaining, Huckabee said he defers to the states on whether to pass right-to-work laws.
"I'm not opposed for people to make their own choices about collective bargaining and unionization," he said. "That's a choice that people ought to be able to make."
"The demographics of a state can be very different in terms of ethnic makeup of the states. I just think the federal government has done a miserable job in trying to dictate to the local level of how to best govern ourselves," he added.
Arkansas, for the record, has been a right-to-work state since the 1940s, and Huckabee defended its right-to-work laws while he was governor.
Democratic candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders also spoke to the union leaders yesterday, and Hillary Clinton and Jim Webb will meet with them today.