A co-founder and senior leader of the centrist bipartisan political group No Labels says they are impressed with Joe Manchin, but the organization is months away from choosing candidates for a “unity ticket” to run for president against the Democratic and Republican Party nominees.
“I’ve never been in a room or a conversation with him (Manchin) where he doesn’t talk about the people he represents, but we’re not building this for any one specific candidate,” said No Labels Senior Strategic Advisor Holly Page on Talkline Monday.
Yet, Manchin’s name continues to surface in media reports as a potential frontrunner for the No Labels ticket, IF the organization and its supporters decide that neither of the main party nominees will address issues relevant to “the commonsense majority.”
“We are trying to give voice to the millions of Americans… who want a different conversation in Washington, who want their problems that keep them up at night addressed and we want some leadership,” said Page.
That narrative falls in line with Manchin language. He talks repeatedly about trying to find an avenue in Washington where problems are solved through bipartisanship rather than the exercise of unilateral raw power. That is a position that frequently puts him at odds with his own party.
“The hope is to keep the country that we have, and you cannot do that by forcing the extreme sides on both parties,” Manchin said on a conference call with No Labels funders recently, according to a transcript of the call that was leaked to Puck News.
Meanwhile, No Labels is focused on fund raising and ballot access. The New York Times reports, and Page confirmed, that the group has gained ballot access in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon and is now working on Florida, Nevada and North Carolina.
“All we are doing right now is laying the groundwork,” Page said, “building the infrastructure, getting on ballots all across the country to enable a third choice to be possible in 2024.” Their goal is to be on the ballot in all 50 states.
To get on the ballot in West Virginia, No Labels would need valid petition signatures of registered voters equal to one percent of the total number of votes for President in the state in 2020, which would be 7,947 signatures.
The names of other potential No Labels candidates have surfaced, including independent Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and former Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan, but it is Manchin’s name that circulates the most. However, when I pressed Page on whether Manchin fit with the goals of No Labels, she continued to equivocate.
“Senator Manchin is a great leader for our efforts—has been from day one—and he has shown incredible courage coming to Washington and standing up for what he believes in the face of tremendous pressure from his party,” Page said. “But in terms of exactly who the right candidates will be, we have a whole process we have to go through, so the answer to your question is no, I can’t.”
Chris Stirewalt, author and politics editor of NewsNation, said on Talkline that No Labels is smart not to name candidates yet. Naming Manchin now would alienate potential contributors who don’t prefer the West Virginia Senator and give the impression of millionaire and billionaire donors picking their candidate in a smoke-filled room, he said.
Ultimately, even if No Labels wants Manchin, the decision is his. As Page said, “In terms of exactly what his future holds, only he knows.”