April Cobin Girnus

(Nevada Current) No Labels, a national group contemplating a third-party presidential run next year, are pushing back against criticisms from Democrats that their theoretical “unity ticket” would inevitably help former president Donald Trump.

“It’s hard to claim No Labels is spoiling a race that (President Joe Biden) is losing by quite a bit,” said Ryan Clancy, chief strategist for No Labels, in a call with Nevada press earlier this month.

Clancy pointed to recent national polls showing Trump leading in crucial swing states, as well as Biden’s overall approval rating, which recently hit a record low.

No Labels isn’t the threat that puts Trump back in office, said Clancy, Biden is.

No Labels is attempting to gain access to 2024 general election ballots in all 50 states. It has already qualified in a dozen of them, including Nevada. Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat now working with No Labels, said the group will qualify in additional states in the coming weeks.

“We’ve hit every target,” he added. “We’re 12 for 12.”

Political observers have speculated U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, will lead the No Labels ticket. Manchin in November announced he would not seek reelection and would instead tour the country in an effort to “unite the middle.” He declined at the time to comment on No Labels. Former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, a Republican who last year headlined a No Labels event alongside Manchin, is believed to be a possible running mate.

Clancy said No Labels’ political modeling shows “significant interest” in a moderate unity ticket that includes a Democrat and a Republican, and that interest has increased since early 2022. Interest in a unity ticket crosses age, gender and party affiliation, says No Labels.

But No Labels has not conducted polling on specific candidates — a decision Clancy said comes down to the fact that any third party candidate lacks the nearly 100% name recognition of two presidents. Focusing on more theoretical questions is a better reflection of people’s core beliefs and desire for political change, he argued.

Clancy said No Labels has conducted polling asking if people would be open to a moderate independent running against Trump and Biden.

“Every time we ask we get a response that about 60% are open to it,” he said. “That’s so significant.”

He continued, “If ‘open to’ is that high, we think there’s a path.”

No Labels considers Nevada one of 25 states that would nominate a unity ticket.

Bob Zeidman, a Nevada Republican who volunteers for No Labels, says he sees “a lot of opportunity” for the group’s message to resonate with voters here.

“I know there are a lot of Republicans who don’t want to vote for Trump,” he said. “There are a lot of Trump fanatics in the Republican Party and they’re very loud. We talk quietly about not voting for Trump. And I know a lot of Democrats here who don’t want to vote for Trump but they also don’t want to vote Biden either.”

No Labels leaders have acknowledged they believe their path only exists if Trump is the GOP nominee. Polls have Trump as the clear frontrunner, but several candidates, such as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, remain in the race.

The first presidential caucuses begin in mid-JanuarySuper Tuesday, a primary-packed day that often makes clear the putative nominee, is March 5.

Clancy on Wednesday said No Labels expects to select a presidential ticket around March 15.

According to the State of Nevada’s 2024 Minor Party Qualification Guide, minor parties must submit their candidates for partisan office to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office between March 4 and March 15, 2024.

No Labels quietly qualified for the Nevada ballot in early August by obtaining and submitting around 11,000 valid signatures — equal to 1% of the total number of votes cast in congressional races during the most recent general election.

No Labels was founded in 2009 by former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a one-time Democrat from Connecticut who ended his political career as an independent. The group has advocated for bipartisan legislation and established the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus, but has not previously nominated candidates for office.

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