The No Labels political operation is not a “secret plot to reelect Donald Trump” according to founding chairman and former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.
“That’s just ridiculous. I mean, there’s no basis in fact,” Lieberman, who was last elected to the Senate in 2006 on a third-party line as what he called an independent Democrat, said in an interview Thursday.
Lieberman said that, in fact, the point of No Labels trying to get ballot access in 2024 in as many states as possible was not only to make a statement about the partisanship of the two-party system, but also “to make sure that Donald Trump is not reelected as president.”
A number of other groups and commentators, including Third Way, have accused the No Labels plan of potentially paving the way for former President Trump to return to the Oval Office.
Lieberman, the Democrats’ 2000 vice presidential nominee, said that just speaking for himself, a two-man race between President Joe Biden and Trump would not be a hard call.
“If we don’t run a unity ticket and it’s Trump versus Biden, the choice for me is an easy one,” he said. “I will support Biden, even though I may think the Democrats … would be better off with a different candidate for president. If it comes down to Trump versus Biden, I think for the good of the country, I will vote for Biden and do so with general confidence that I’m doing the right thing.”
The conversation with Lieberman came before a Puck News report about a recent call with the group’s supporters and a commitment to have $70 million backing its efforts.
Nancy Jacobson, the CEO of No Labels, was quoted by Puck as saying there was a real opportunity to get on the ballot in all 50 states, but that there would also be an escape hatch.
“If this is not a national sensation and the crowd is not coming out and the crowds are not coming out, then it’s not happening, we’re getting out of this. We can get out of this by the end of August, pull the plug, [that’s the] latest we can get off the ballot,” Jacobson reportedly said.
Lieberman suggested the real decision point will be in April 2024, with No Labels planning to hold a convention in Dallas on April 14, after roughly half the states will have held their presidential primaries. A spokesperson for the group said that would come “rain or shine,” regardless of whether there are nominees for president and vice president to be announced.
“We have to decide between Super Tuesday and then whether we’re going to field a ticket based on polling and our best judgment about it,” Lieberman said in the interview. “Ultimately, though I think the idea of a bipartisan ticket for president and vice president is very appealing to, I think, a majority of people right now in our country. Ultimately, it’s going to be two people and those two people have to be credible candidates for president and vice president.”
He conceded that another “complicating factor” would be whether they end up believing that fielding candidates could prove just successful enough to win electoral votes that result in throwing the election of the next president into the House of Representatives. That would occur if neither Biden nor whomever emerges as the Republican nominee gets to 270 electoral votes.
In such a situation, the Constitution says each state gets a single vote.
Still, Lieberman says as a generic question the No Labels polling points to a potential path to win enough states, saying the polling “suggests the opening here because of the broad dissatisfaction both with the two parties and with the two leading candidates for president.”
A Monmouth University poll released March 27 found that while 74 percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Biden, just 25 percent wanted him to seek another term. An NBC News poll released in April found 70 percent of adults said Biden should not run and 60 percent said Trump should not.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III, who has not said if he will seek reelection next year in a state Trump carried by 39 points, spoke as a potential candidate on a No Labels conference call, Puck reported.
“Let’s try to make people come back together for the sake of the country, not just for the sake of the party,” Manchin was quoted as saying.
Lawsuit in Arizona
As for down ballot races, Lieberman said he would anticipate that third party Senate and House candidates could be interested in using their ballot lines, including in Arizona. That’s where Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat-turned independent, has not announced whether she plans to seek reelection. But she does not seem to have a logical path to get on the ballot through either major party primary process
The Arizona Democratic Party has sued to keep No Labels from getting a ballot line in that state.
“We are aware that a third line in all these states is something of value,” Lieberman said, though he said the conversations thus far have focused on the presidential race and the effort to get on as many state ballots as possible.
When Lieberman himself was reelected in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, who’s now the governor of Connecticut, he won on the line of what was called the “Connecticut for Lieberman” Party. Before losing its ballot access, the party — such as it was — came to be controlled by opponents of the senator for which it was named.
Lieberman said the question of how No Labels prevents a similar phenomenon has come up on at least one of the group’s conference calls.
“We’re taking steps in all of the states to actually have a, an all labels, state party structure that will have rules and that will in that sense, insofar state law, control the future use of that line,” he said.