washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Why No Labels Is Moving Ahead With No Candidates

Since J.P. Green covered the SOTU Address and response, I’ll end the week with a report on the potentially significant maneuverings of the No Labels organization, which I wrote up at New York:

The nonpartisan group No Labels has announced a decision by a group of “delegates” from around the country to move forward with a 2024 presidential ticket, despite having no discernible candidates lined up.

Former Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, the chairman of the virtual convention that made this decision on Friday, put out a statement saying: “They voted near unanimously to continue our 2024 project and to move immediately to identify candidates to serve on the Unity presidential ticket.” At some point in the next couple of months, assuming the group can identify qualified candidates to fill out the “unity ticket,” it is expected to reconvene the delegates for an up-or-down vote that will conclude the deliberative process. Says Rawlings: “Now that No Labels has received the go-ahead from our delegates, we’ll be accelerating our candidate outreach and announcing the process for how candidates will be selected for the Unity Ticket on Thursday, March 14.”

The political logic of this two-step process is pretty simple: The idea of a bipartisan “third option” has always been more popular than any actual ticket. A poll from Monmouth last summer showed support for such a ticket dropping by half when specific candidates (in that case, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, both No Labels leaders) were identified. And just this week, Third Way, a centrist Democratic group that has been relentlessly warning that No Labels may pave the way to a second Trump administration, released new polling with the same bottom line:

“Only a third of the electorate would even entertain voting for an unnamed No Labels ticket. (Again, we tested this before we named Haley.) That recedes quickly when details are added …

“When we asked about a third-party ticket led by Nikki Haley, we found it to be non-competitive. Indeed, it performs worse than an unnamed moderate, independent ticket:

“Nikki Haley has 80% name ID and boosts a better net approval rating than either Biden or Trump. Despite her strengths, a No Labels ticket with Haley as the nominee gets just 9% of the vote, losing badly to Trump and Biden and trailing even RFK Jr. (13%). Thus, a No Labels ticket led by one of the most well-known and respected GOP leaders available is more likely to finish fourth than win a single electoral vote.”

Nikki Haley, of course, spent a good part of her last week as an active presidential candidate disclaiming any interest in a No Labels candidacy, reminding everyone that she is a lifelong “conservative Republican” who would never consider running on a ticket with any kind of Democrat. But if her name isn’t capable of mobilizing support for a unity ticket, whose would? No one comes to mind.

The presidential general election has just entered a new phase, with Joe Biden and Donald Trump dispatching their final opponents on Super Tuesday and the incumbent throwing down the gauntlet in a State of the Union Address that seemed to galvanize Democrats. This contest is too volatile to tell exactly how a future No Labels ticket would affect the outcome, though Third Way and other Democrats will continue to warn of its perils. For now, it does make sense for No Labels to make every effort to show support for a no-name presidential ticket before taking the final plunge, even if it knows an identified ticket is likely to lose altitude once the blanks have been filled in.

At the moment, No Labels has ballot access in 16 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah. ABC News reports the group believes it is still on a trajectory to secure a spot on the ballot in 33 states ultimately. It’s a high-stakes, dangerous game No Labels is playing, and there remains a chance it will flip the board at the crucial moment and back off the unity-ticket plans. Everyone connected to No Labels claims to be revolted by the idea of playing spoiler, and most say they’re particularly horrified by the idea of Trump as the 47th president. But the lack of empirical data that their “third option” would actually work with real candidates is a problem these self-styled “problem-solvers” need to address definitively very soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.