THREE’S A CROWD

Despite opposition, No Labels plots independent playbook for 2024

The No Labels political organization wants an alternative to Trump and Biden. The group won’t tell voters who their candidate is until next year.

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 17: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) speaks at a panel hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran – U.S. Representative Office (NCRI-US) at the Willard InterContinental Hotel

A Washington political organization is rankling partisans over its plans to possibly field a third-party candidate in 2024, with Democrats in particular concerned that mounting such an effort might hand the presidential election to Republicans. 

But the leader of No Labels, the centrist group that has brought in tens of millions of dollars in a bid to get on the 2024 ballot in all 50 states, told Jewish Insider in an interview on Friday that the group does not yet know if it will form a ticket, and that it does not intend to announce its plans for next year’s presidential election until April 2024, months into the presidential primary process. 

“April 14 in Dallas we thought would be the time and place,” No Labels chief executive Nancy Jacobson, a former Democratic fundraiser, said, referring to when the organization plans to say whether it will field a 2024 presidential ticket. That’s when No Labels will host a national political convention in the Texas city. “Only then, next year, will we get into candidate selection.”

No Labels was created in 2010 with the goal of building bipartisan coalitions in Congress. This is the first time the organization has considered getting involved in presidential politics, which its leaders say is because both the Democratic and Republican parties have become too extreme. They call the third-party option an “insurance policy” that will only be used if the Democratic and Republican nominees for president are not acceptable to No Labels members.

“After the Super Tuesday primaries in March, it should be pretty clear who the nominees of the two major parties will be,” Jacobson said. “That’s the key factor for us, then, to decide whether we want to use the ‘insurance policy’ and give the American people a third alternative.” 

Both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are unacceptable to No Labels’ leadership.

“We need a president who will be a moderate, independent, problem-solving bipartisan president. We also begin to see a prospect of two party tickets led by President Trump and President Biden, which are extremely unpopular among the people of the country,” said former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who with former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is the organization’s national co-chair.

Yet Lieberman also managed to offer some personal praise towards Biden, his former Senate colleague, despite his political opposition. 

“I admire him,” Lieberman said of Biden. “In some ways, he’s been pulled, or his administration has, to the left, by the left part of the Democratic Party. But on the other hand, he has embraced some of the bipartisan compromises that have come out of the No Labels members of Congress.” Lieberman pointed to Biden’s nearly $2 trillion pandemic stimulus bill, and his inability to balance the federal budget, as areas where he’s strayed from the center.  

Democrats have argued that a No Labels third-party ticket would advantage Trump in 2024, claiming that a centrist Democratic candidate running on the No Labels line would take votes away from Biden. Lieberman acknowledges that among No Labels members, Trump and Biden are not viewed as equally problematic.

“The strongest feeling among the No Labels members is that they don’t want President Trump to get reelected again,” noted Lieberman, who switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Independent in 2006.

No Labels is taking an unconventional approach to presidential politics by focusing its efforts on putting together a policy platform, and only later focusing on choosing a candidate – almost as an afterthought, if the group’s leaders determine that the Democratic and Republican nominees are unacceptable. 

The group’s policy handbook focuses on issues like immigration reform, crime, Social Security, taxes and budget issues. Notably missing from the list is abortion, which has become an even more potent political issue for both Democrats and Republicans in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

“In terms of abortion, that’s something that the candidates themselves will have to talk about. I don’t think at this point we’re coming out with that,” Jacobson said.

While the two major parties select their nominees through a lengthy process of debates, primaries and caucuses, No Labels is employing a centralized, top-down process to choose a possible ticket.

Lieberman said No Labels will “create some participatory process” to determine the group’s nominee, but did not elaborate on what that process would entail. 

Jacobson and Lieberman told JI that No Labels does not have a desired candidate in mind. They insist that no one at No Labels is even thinking about who a No Labels candidate might be.

“We don’t even like to speculate. We don’t spend any of our time doing it,” said Jacobson, who said the group is not yet having any conversations with potential candidates.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a centrist Democrat, told The Washington Post recently that he is open to running for president on a No Labels ticket.

“Obviously, if he was interested, he’s somebody we would want to talk to. But I expect that if this materializes, and actually happens, there’ll be a lot of people who will be interested,” Lieberman told JI. 

If Trump and Biden are their parties’ respective nominees, Manchin would be the youngest candidate on the ballot at 77, next to Trump, who will be 78 at next year’s election, and Biden, who will be 81. Voters have expressed concern about Biden’s age. (Lieberman, who retired from the Senate in 2012, was born the same year as Biden.)

“I hadn’t thought about whether age of a particular candidate will be a factor. We haven’t talked about it. I suppose it might,” Lieberman acknowledged. But the candidates’ commitment to “moderate, independent government” will be “much more important than age,” he added.

A poll conducted by the organization late last year found that 59% of registered voters said they would consider voting for a moderate, independent candidate if the party nominees were Trump and Biden. The poll did not name any specific potential candidates who fit that description. 

“We’re not going to be spoilers. We’re only going to do this if we believe, based on all the data, and we’re very big on accumulating data, that the American people want a third choice so much that it actually could get elected,” said Lieberman. 

In recent elections, third-party tickets have thrown the presidential campaign into chaos. The 2000 presidential election — in which Lieberman was the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate — was decided by 537 votes in the same state where Green Party candidate Ralph Nader won 97,000 votes. 

If No Labels ultimately does not mount a 2024 presidential bid, the group will focus on Congress. It views Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who like Lieberman changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent last year, as a champion of the No Labels brand. 

“The people of Arizona know what a champion she is,” Jacobson said. But early polling in the race suggests that Sinema faces an uphill battle against both a Democratic and Republican challenger. Jacobson did not name other Senate races in which No Labels plans to play a role next year.

Still, No Labels sees the limits of working only with Congress, which until now has been its focus — and wants to aim higher, even if Jacobson and Lieberman insist no decision has been made yet about next year.

“If we really want to restore bipartisan problem-solving government in Washington, we’ve got to have a president who will support that,” said Lieberman. “It just can’t be our supportive members in the House and Senate in both parties.”

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