A No Labels rally at U.S. Capitol in 2011 (photo credit: Wikipedia)
No Labels is the ostensibly centrist political organization that plans a bipartisan “unity ticket” if the presidential election choice comes down to Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump, a rematch of 2020 that a strong majority of Americans say they do not want to revisit in 2024.
But what if the Republican nominee is Ron DeSantis? That’s something party organizers say they are not ready to confront just yet.
“That’s just too hypothetical for us,” said Ryan Clancy, No Labels’ chief strategist, on a Zoom conference call with reporters on Friday.
While the central premise of a No Labels candidate is to provide an alternative to a potential Biden-Trump rematch, the group has not closed the door to fielding a presidential ticket even if Trump and/or Biden fails to become their respective party’s presidential nominee.
It’s been clear for months that if Americans had their choice, they would be prefer such an alternative. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist national poll conducted last month found that nearly two-thirds of voters (65%) said that they don’t want Biden to be president again, while 60% say the same about Trump.
No Labels’ own polling found that 63% of Americans said that they would be open to supporting a moderate independent candidate in 2024 if it comes down to a Trump vs. Biden race.
“If it’s a Trump-Biden rematch and the voters continue to feel about Trump and Biden — which is not good — we see a real opening there,” said Clancy. “But if Republicans and Democrats in the end put up different candidates that the public likes more, there might not be an opening, in which case we won’t force it.”
Speculation resurfaced overnight that Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who announced on Thursday that he will not run for reelection to his U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia next year, is considering heading the No Labels ticket. The States Newsroom reported that Manchin appeared at several events hosted by No Labels earlier this year. But Clancy said on Friday that no decisions have been made yet on who will be their presidential candidate.
The priority of the organization is to get on all 50 state ballots next year. They are already on the ballot in 12 states, including Florida. Clancy says the goal is to have a ticket in place by mid-April at the latest, although it could come be sooner if Trump has the nomination wrapped up after Iowa and New Hampshire voters weigh in.
Because of the country’s winner-take-all system, American presidential elections generally are focused on only a certain number of “swing” or “battleground” states in order to win the Electoral College. For years, Florida was part of that elite group, but no longer as Republicans margins in statewide elections continue to increase.
Although Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by only 1 percentage point in Florida in 2016, he increased that to more than 3 points against Biden in 2020. And Republicans Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio ended up winning their reelection bids in 2022 by double-digit margins.
Clancy said that if and when No Labels chooses a presidential ticket, it will be up to those candidates to decide where to spend their time and resources, but added, “even if there are states with a No Labels ticket [that] might not have a great shot to win, there are still plenty of voters in those states that will want to vote for one, and we’ve got to have a presence there.”
Democrats in particular have been critical of No Labels, saying they could end up being “a spoiler.” In a recent opinion piece in The Messenger, Florida Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who led a pro-Biden Super PAC in 2020, wrote that there was no way an independent third-party presidential candidate could win Florida’s 30 electoral votes in 2024, and thus wouldn’t be able to get to the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency.
“There are all kinds of other ideas out there on how to incentivize a more moderate politics, but none of them are accomplished by what No Labels is trying to do,” Schale wrote.
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