WASHINGTON — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin flirted Monday with the possibility of an independent presidential campaign on the “No Labels” ticket, even as other Democrats warned that a one-third bid can only help Donald Trump regain the presidency.
“The political parties have failed to deliver on their promises,” Manchin told a New Hampshire town hall sponsored by No Labels, a bipartisan political organization that seeks presidential election in all 50 states.
Manchin, who has clashed with President Joe Biden over federal spending and other issues, said he hasn’t decided to take the plunge.
“Let’s see what happens,” he said. “It is too early.”
“A Dangerous Thing to Do”
While No Labels officials have said their nominee will garner votes from both parties, members of those parties believe the ticket would further reduce Biden’s totals and favor Trump’s re-election.
‘It’s a dangerous thing to do,’ said former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., who helped create a political action committee to oppose the campaign Presidential No Labels.
“We need options”
Manchin and other members of No Labels have said they oppose the hyperpartisan environment in which the most conservative and liberal voices are heard.
“We need options,” Manchin said during the town hall at Saint Anselm College, located near Manchester, New Hampshire. He said Democrats had gone too far left and Republicans too far right.
Manchin also criticized Trump for his repeated protests against the 2020 election and against the January 6, 2021, uprising.
The senator also faces a tough bid for Senate re-election next year in an increasingly Republican West Virginia.
‘The definition of madness’?
Former Utah governor and former ambassador to China and Russia Jon Huntsman, a Republican who appeared with Manchin for mayor, dismissed criticism of a possible No Labels presidential bid by saying parties don’t only used “talking points”.
Huntsman, who is mentioned as a possible No Labels running mate, indicated he was not interested in running for the top spot. He joked that “everyone wants to know what Joe is doing”.
The Republican also said voters weren’t mad about the possibility of parties renominating Biden and Trump: “Is that the definition of insanity or what?”
Free yourself from anger
On its website, No Labels said it wanted candidates who could “declare their freedom from the anger and division that is ruining our politics and, more importantly, our country.”
Among the issues raised at the town hall: a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, federal debt reduction, rights reform, climate change legislation, school safety, mental health, political polarization and legislation to end the influence of “black money” in American politics.
“An Opportunity to Win”
City Hall and No Labels groups also include prominent Democrats and Republicans who are increasingly critical of their parties.
Former US Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2000 and also a supporter of Republican candidate John McCain in 2008, told the town hall that No Labels wanted to influence the country’s political agenda.
Pat McCrory, a Republican and former governor of North Carolina, told New Hampshire City Hall that No Labels would only endorse a presidential candidate if he saw that “we have an opportunity to win.”
“It would cost Biden a lot more”
Many Democrats and Republicans say No Labels has no chance of electing its own president, only a chance of re-electing Trump.
They cited a number of polls showing a third of self-described moderates would take more votes from Biden than from Trump — enough to possibly make a difference in key Electoral College states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Hours before the No Labels town hall, Gephardt and his allies announced the formation of a bipartisan political action committee called Citizens to Save Our Republic.
In its announcement, the group said “we call on No Labels to drop its efforts to nominate a third-party candidate,” especially as it becomes clear that Republicans will nominate Trump.
Gephardt, himself a former Democratic presidential candidate, said No Labels was wrong to say he would get equal votes from both parties.
“That would ask a lot more of Biden than Trump,” he said, “and would ensure Trump’s victory.”
Third Way, a center-left think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in a polling note that “hate doubles” — voters who don’t like Democrats or Republicans — generally went with Biden during of his 2020 head-to-head win over Trump.
“An April 2023 poll found Biden ahead of Trump by 39 points among voters who disapprove of both presidencies,” the memo reads. “Giving them the choice of a third party clearly helps the GOP.”
Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, said that in the absence of a strong third candidate, “people who don’t like either party – the ‘hate doubles’ – are heading to Biden.”
‘A waste of time?’
The New Hampshire Democratic Party also weighed in on the No Labels town hall, calling it “a waste of time and effort.”
State Party Chairman Ray Buckley noted that No Labels does not release donor names and said there are reports that some Trump supporters are included.
“They don’t want anyone to know what it really is,” he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Options:’ Joe Manchin flirts with third-party offer against Biden, Trump