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Bill Clinton is trying to unify labor and other Democratic factions behind his candidacy for the closing primaries while sharpening the economic themes he hopes to take to President Bush in the fall.

The Arkansas governor made two attempts Wednesday at persuading skeptics in the labor movement to come aboard, getting some crucial help from former rival Tom Harkin at a rowdy Philadelphia event.For Clinton, the goal is to avoid any more potholes on the march to nomination even as he tries to boost his image by engaging Bush through a series of major speeches and events.

"If you will support me - I will fight for you," Clinton told the Philadelphia AFL-CIO council, winning a standing ovation at the end of his remarks after a disastrous start to the Wednesday night event.

"No right to work state - no right to work state," union members chanted as Clinton entered the hall, a criticism of Arkansas' law forbidding compulsory union shops.

But Harkin quickly came to Clinton's defense, saying his home state of Iowa also had such a law and delivering a stemwinder that took the steam out of most Clinton critics.

"Let's unify," labor favorite Harkin implored the audience. "He is going to be the nominee of our party. Let's get behind him."

Harkin also took aim at Clinton's lone challenger, former California Gov. Jerry Brown, saying Brown had called him "a special tool of organized labor" yet sought out union support once Harkin was gone from the race.

"I get pretty sick and tired when I see that fellow from California out there wearing a UAW jacket," Harkin said.

For Clinton, the help couldn't have come at a better time. Pennsylvania is the next major battleground - April 28 - and Clinton needs a convincing win to answer skeptics who say his three-state sweep Tuesday was scarred by underlying voters doubts about Clinton's integrity.

It also came after a symbolic trip to a United Auto Workers picket line at the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Ill., site of a bitter feud over a company decision to seek out permanent replacement workers for strikers. There, Clinton underscored his support for legislation banning permanent replacements and struck a broader theme that he would be a far more activist president than Bush.

"If the strike comes to the point of replacing strikers permanently it will have a devastating effect not only on the families of the employees but on the whole fabric of worker-management relations all over the country," Clinton said, urging Bush to name a mediator and perhaps meet with the parties.

Clinton plans to resume campaigning Monday. His chronic throat program forced him from the campaign trail.

"My doctor ordered me to shut up, which will make the American people happy," Clinton joked Wednesday night.