WASHINGTON — No Labels is facing increasing scrutiny for the possibility that it could play a spoiler role in the 2024 presidential election, and its founder and CEO said in an exclusive interview that she pledges to end the group’s third-party effort in 2024 if it risks putting Donald Trump back in the White House.
But Nancy Jacobson has repeatedly declined to offer any metrics on how the band would determine whether to pull out.
“As a Democrat? Categorically, it’s not going to happen,” Jacobson said in response to a question about concerns that a third-party ticket, operating on the voting line that No Labels seeks in each state, could siphon President Joe Biden’s votes and profit. to Trump. “This effort will never be – we will reduce it.”
Jacobson immediately added, “We won’t spoil either of them. The only reason to do so is to win.
It’s a bold statement in a country where the most successful third-party presidential effort of the last century finished in third place. And even though the No Labels effort came out this week with a public campaign-style event in Manchester, New Hampshire, much of its political effort remains under wraps.
The group does not reveal its donors or publicly discuss its deliberations on who it might recruit to run on its planned bipartisan ticket. Details of how it will hold its convention in Dallas in April are also unclear, although the group has no plans to hold primaries or traditional caucuses in which voters select a presidential candidate. presidency. Jacobson said the group will assess its position after Super Tuesday and the Florida primary next year.
Jacobson worked as a major fundraiser for the Clintons and the Democratic Party before forming No Labels in 2010, helped create the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, and helped moderate members of Congress from both parties in their elections .
Jacobson, a Democrat, objected when asked if Biden represented the bipartisan leader No Labels had hinged on. Biden ran his 2020 presidential campaign on a promise to work with congressional Republicans. His campaign has often pointed to the passage of the CHIPS Act, the infrastructure package and the debt ceiling agreement — deals celebrated by No Labels allies in Congress — as proof of the president’s work.
“Joe Biden is a good man. There have been a lot of great bills, but the fact is, it’s about the voters. It’s not about us,” Jacobson said. is about voters, and voters in this country right now aren’t saying they want it as a choice – right now.”
Aspects of the current polls are grim for Biden. Although he maintained a slight lead over Trump in the latest NBC News national poll, his approval rating stood at 43%. And 44% of voters, including a larger share of Democrats than Republicans, say they are willing to consider a third-party candidate.
It is in this context that National Democrats have expressed their deep concern about the consequences of the presidential efforts of No Labels.
“I don’t think No Labels is a political party,” Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, told CNN on Sunday. “I mean, it’s a few individuals putting black money behind an organization, and that’s not how our democracy should be. … I’m obviously concerned about what’s happening here in Arizona and across the country.
Jacobson said the group would not disclose its donors, saying, “There’s nothing nefarious here.”
She said the group was not legally required to reveal its financial sources.
The Arizona Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office last week, arguing that No Labels should be suspended as a political party for not following the same disclosure rules. financial than the Republican and Democratic parties in the state.
Although it has registered as a political party, Jacobson has denied that the group – which is set up as a so-called non-profit welfare organization – acts as a party, arguing that it will only make his voting line available for a presidential ticket, not actually tap into the eventual campaign.
“It’s just the language,” Jacobson said. “It’s not – you know, we don’t work – we’re a one-time ticket.
“A party – [the] The definition of a party is to move candidates up and down the ballot. That’s not what we do,” she continued.
Some Biden allies, viewing No Labels as a clear potential spoiler, questioned the true motivations behind Jacobson’s mission. But one of his longtime senior advisers, William Galston, who left the organization in April over his opposition to the presidential ticketing operation, defended his intentions in an interview.
“I don’t question the motives, patriotism or integrity of anyone involved in this effort,” Galston said. “My opposition is a simple matter of political analysis. I believe there is a gap between what No Labels wants to do and what its efforts will actually accomplish.
Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, helped Jacobson launch No Labels in 2010, but left the organization in April over his opposition to the presidential ticketing operation.
“I see no serious possibility that an independent, bipartisan, centrist third-party ticket could succeed and win the presidency,” Galston said, adding, “I fear that despite his intentions to the contrary, if he continues, he will end up – it will end up helping Donald Trump.
According to NBC News’ exit poll, most of those who voted one-third in 2016 decided to support Biden four years later, helping to deny Trump re-election. Now Democrats fear a growing third-party vote in 2024 will lower the threshold Trump needs to win again – as he did in 2016, when 47% to 48% of the vote was enough for him to capture major swing states.
Jacobson defended the organization’s credibility in his interview, citing the many nationally recognized figures affiliated with it.
“Because we have been around for 13 years. They can see the leaders around that,” Jacobson said. “They can see Senator Joe Lieberman. They can see Governor Larry Hogan. They can see a civil rights leader, Ben Chavis. They can see all the leaders. They can see our work over the past 13 years.
In New Hampshire on Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Jon Huntsman, the former Republican governor of Utah and ambassador to China, headlined No Labels’ “Common Sense Town Hall” at Saint Anselm College .
Manchin said in an interview that “nothing is on the table” regarding his moves in 2024, leaving the door open to join the No Labels ticket. He said he would decide “next year”.
“Let’s see where everyone is going. Let’s see what happens,” Manchin said.
Last week, businessman Mark Cuban praised the organization’s presidential ticket plan, but ruled himself out of the mix for consideration.
“I like that they’re trying a new path. I think the two-party system is broken,” Cuban said.
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com