The political organization named “No Labels” has been around since 2010. It is not directly affiliated with any political party, and its leadership claims it has no intention of creating a new one. Instead, No Labels’ goal is to bring warring members of Congress together to discuss and implement practical solutions to problems.
No Labels, founded and led by veteran political fundraiser Nancy Jacobson, decries political partisanship. It faults Republicans and Democrats for unprincipled party allegiance. No Labels’ watchword is bipartisanship — and it promotes what it believes to be common sense, “centrist” solutions to issues like the economy, immigration, energy, climate and a host of others. No Labels touts several bipartisan successes, including help in the recent passage of the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill.
No Labels has attracted the active involvement of some very recognizable “center-leaning” political names, including former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). It has also started to attract some significant donations.
It is against this backdrop that No Labels prompted a tremor in the presidential sweepstakes earlier this month when it announced a $70 million plan to put a candidate on the ballot in all 50 states for the 2024 presidential election. No Labels has not identified its candidate. In fact, it says it doesn’t have a candidate at this time. Rather, it claims that the 50-state ballot project is an “insurance policy” in case Democrats and Republicans both nominate “unacceptable” candidates next year.
Although No Labels won’t come out and say it, the handwriting is on the wall. No Labels has condemned Donald Trump and Joe Biden as extreme or overly partisan and does not appear willing to endorse either one in the coming election. If Biden and Trump are both nominated, No Labels will back someone else. And No Labels claims a centrist candidate could prevail in some 40 states and win a three-way election.
The track record of third-party candidates is not good. And it is not likely that a No Labels candidate could win in a national three-person race. But there is a real possibility of a serious No Labels candidate playing the spoiler role — and therein lies the rub.
Democrats are threatened by the No Labels move and recognize that a third-party, centrist candidate would almost certainly draw nervous or anti-Trump voters away from Biden. If that happens in states like Arizona, where Biden won by a slim margin in 2020, the overall result could be affected. Republicans are less agitated but recognize that a third-party, centrist candidate could tip the balance on an issue like abortion, which would draw votes from Trump and help Biden.
No Labels says it will wait until its planned April 2024 convention to see who the Democrats and Republicans nominate before it declares its next steps. In doing so, No Labels has achieved what appears to be its real objective — forcing Democrats and Republicans to think more carefully and strategically about who they nominate and what their party platforms will be.
No Labels may not be able to win the presidency, but it may be in a position to have a significant impact on who does. ■