Jul 12, 2023 - Politics & Policy

No Labels, no hesitation

Sen. Joe Manchin. Photo: Anna Rose Layden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

No Labels, the bipartisan group plotting an independent presidential campaign, is claiming that a new poll — commissioned by Democratic and Republican strategists determined to stop them — actually bolsters their case.

Why it matters: No Labels' response to the survey — which shows a moderate third-party candidate at roughly 20% in a three-way race with President Biden and former President Trump — is another indication that the deep-pocketed group isn’t going away.

  • "Their poll validates our strategy and what we’ve been saying all along — there’s an unprecedented opening for the independent ticket, a lot of room to grow and a viable path to victory," Dritan Nesho, chief pollster at No Labels, told Axios.
  • "It's a real insurance strategy given the weakness of and dissatisfaction with the major party candidates, especially Biden," he said.

Driving the news: No Labels is giving every indication that their leaders are dead-set on launching a third party campaign, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) scheduled to headline a No Labels town hall in New Hampshire on July 17.

  • Alarmed — a collection of former Republican and Democratic lawmakers and top party strategists — are forming a new group, led by former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, to stop them, as the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
  • But first the strategists wanted their own data and commissioned a poll that included 2,200 likely national voters and then 500 voters in seven swing states.

What they're saying: "When the poll came back, it confirmed our worst fears," said Joe Trippi, a veteran Democratic strategist. "It sped up the decision to form a committee and start doing what we can, to make clear the danger of what No Labels represents."

  • "Whether it’s 38% or 43%, the die-hard Trump vote isn’t going anywhere," Trippi said.
  • "There will not be a No Labels president — there will be a No Labels spoiler if they go through with their plan," he said.
  • "A third party candidacy is very, very, very likely to elect Trump," said Greg Schneiders, whose firm, Prime Group, conducted the poll.

By the numbers: Without a third-party candidate, Biden leads Trump 52%-48%, according to the poll, which was conducted June 14-28.

  • With one, Trump leads Biden 40%-39%. The independent takes the remaining 21%.
  • Those numbers are roughly the same in swing states, with the independent candidate capturing 18% in Michigan and 28% in Arizona.

The big picture: The prospect that No Labels will nominate a candidate at their April convention and gain ballot access across the country is causing an increasing amount of alarm in the Democratic Party.

  • "I think it is worth freaking out about because I think this election is likely to be close," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told Axios. "And even if these idiots only get 3%, that could be 3% that throws the Electoral College in the wrong direction."
  • The centrist group Third Way, along with the progressive organization MoveOn, will brief Senate Democratic chiefs of staff on July 27 on the risk they believe a third party candidacy poses, Politico reported over the weekend.
  • "I haven’t ruled out anything," Manchin, who played footsie with Iowa voters in May, told CNN on Wednesday.
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