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Manchin provides little 2024 insight at No Labels New Hampshire town hall

Group seeking ballot access wouldn't decide on bipartisan ticket until after Super Tuesday

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., could be a No Labels candidate.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., could be a No Labels candidate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Joe Manchin III gave few clues about his own 2024 plans during a town hall sponsored by the No Labels organization Monday evening in New Hampshire, though he did at times sound like a candidate for, well, something.

“I’ve never been in any race I’ve ever spoiled. I’ve been in races to win, and if I get in a race I’m going to win,” Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said while sharing the stage with former Utah Republican Gov. Jon Hunstman.

Manchin, whose Senate term is also up in 2024, has made no formal announcement of his intentions in his race, either.  Gov. Jim Justice and Rep. Alex X. Mooney are vying for the Republican nomination in the state that overwhelmingly voted for former President Donald Trump. And there may be no Democrat other than Manchin in the entire state with a plausible case for victory.

The event was billed as the rollout of a new common sense booklet from No Labels, an organization that is seeking to promote centrist political agenda and wants to get ballot access across the country for what No Labels national co-chair and former Gov. Pat McCrory, R-N.C., described before Huntsman and Manchin took the stage as an “insurance policy.”

“We hope we won’t have to do it, but the fact of the matter is, if by Super Tuesday, that we see the final two candidates frankly being Donald Trump or Joe Biden — and Joe Biden, the American people are saying loud and clear, and we’ll measure that again come Super Tuesday, right now 60 to 70-percent of the American people are saying we can do better,” McCrory said.

Echoing much of what the group’s founding chairman former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman has said recently, McCrory says the group has no intention of being a spoiler if it does decide to run a ticket in 2024.

Both Manchin and Huntsman seemed frustrated by the moderator’s insistence on asking about the clear politics of an appearance in New Hampshire, which has historically held the first primary in the country and plans to continue to do so even if the Democratic Party will not recognize it.

“I think people are putting the cart ahead of the horse. We’re here to make sure that the American people have an option. And the option is can you move the political parties off their respective sides? They’ve gone too far right and too far left,” Manchin said. “That can’t be done unless they’re threatened.”

He said the way to threaten the two existing parties would be by uniting the centrists and independents, and providing those voters with a third option.

The policy booklet outlines proposals for which everyone can find something to dislike.

No Labels wants to see a reprise of bipartisan efforts to address fiscal challenges with the aim of reducing the deficit, and the group’s calling for a mandate for up-or-down votes.

“That’s why the next president should call on Congress to appoint an independent and bipartisan deficit reduction commission — which could include current members of Congress, as well as respected outside experts — that would be tasked with forming a deficit reduction plan that Congress would have to vote on in its entirety, meaning members of Congress could not offer amendments to change it,” the booklet read.

At points, No Labels endorses little in the way of policy specifics, perhaps avoiding too much boxing-in of any potential candidates for their ballot line. Take abortion policy, for instance.

“In the realm of politics, our elected leaders must find a sustainable and inevitably imperfect compromise that balances the belief of most Americans that women have a right to control their own reproductive health and our society’s responsibility to protect human life,” the booklet said.

But on one point that’s certain to inflame conservatives and liberals for very different reasons, the group avoids endorsing any specific limits on abortion.

“Abortion is too important and complicated an issue to say it’s common sense to pass a law — nationally or in the states — that draws a clear line at a certain stage of pregnancy,” the group said.

But overall, Huntsman said the document did demonstrate the positions of a “common sense majority.”

“The common sense majority has no voice in this country. They just watch the three-ring circus play out,” the former Utah governor said.

Mary Ellen McIntire contributed to this report.

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