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No Labels group abandons US presidential third-party bid

In News, World
April 05, 2024

It was the third-party challenge that wasn’t.

The No Labels group announced on Thursday that it will not field a third-party candidate to challenge Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.

The move comes after the organisation, which has billed itself as a bipartisan antidote to hyper-partisanship in the United States, failed to attract a high-profile centrist to be its champion. The US has long been dominated by two main parties — Republicans and Democrats — with third-party candidates generally failing to gain traction. They are often accused of siphoning votes from mainstream candidates.

“No Labels has always said we would only offer our ballot line to a ticket if we could identify candidates with a credible path to winning the White House,” Nancy Jacobson, the group’s CEO, said in a statement sent out to allies.

“No such candidates emerged, so the responsible course of action is for us to stand down.”

The announcement further cements the general election matchup between Biden and Trump, both of whom have occupied the White House — and both of whom have seen tanking popularity in recent months.

The update leaves only anti-vaccine activist Robert F Kennedy Jr, a scion of the Kennedy political dynasty, as the only prominent outsider still seeking the presidency.

Kennedy said this week that he had collected enough signatures to qualify for the fall ballot in five states.

No Labels’ decision comes just days after the death of founding chairman Joe Lieberman, a former Democratic senator and vice presidential candidate who became a political independent during his final term in office.

Thursday’s move caps months of internal discussions at No Labels, during which the group raised tens of millions of dollars from a donor list it has kept secret.

Democrats had feared the ticket would be damaging to Biden and threatened to fracture the diverse coalition of voters seen as his best pathway to victory, particularly in key battleground states. No Labels never named all of its delegates and most of its deliberations took place in secret, further stoking concerns it could scuttle Biden’s chances.

“Millions of Americans are relieved that No Labels finally decided to do the right thing to keep Donald Trump out of the White House,” said Rahna Epting, a No Labels critic and executive director of the progressive organisation MoveOn.

“Now, it’s time for Robert Kennedy Jr to see the writing on the wall that no third party has a path forward to winning the presidency. We must come together to defeat the biggest threat to our democracy and country: Donald Trump.”

Kennedy’s campaign did not immediately comment.

No Labels had previously said it qualified to appear on ballots in 21 states.

But several potential presidential candidates said they would not be the group’s standard-bearer. They include former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who suspended her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination last month.

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who has long roiled the party, also ruled out running, and former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a centrist Republican, decided to run for the US Senate instead.

Last month, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican candidate for the presidency in 2024, also said he would not run under the No Label banner.

The group had been weighing a so-called “unity ticket” with a presidential candidate from one major party and a vice presidential candidate from the other, to appeal to voters unhappy with both Biden and Trump.

“We are deeply relieved that everyone rejected their offer, forcing them to stand down,” said Matt Bennett of the centrist group Third Way, which has been fighting No Labels’ 2024 ambitions. “While the threat of third-party spoilers remains, this uniquely damaging attack on President Biden and Democrats from the centre has at last ended.”

Dan DuPraw, a 33-year-old sales worker in Philadelphia who would have been a delegate for the No Labels convention, called Thursday’s decision disappointing but prudent. He said he trusts the No Labels leadership to make the right call.

“I understand why they made the decision, and I think it’s the right thing to do in this moment,” DuPraw told The Associated Press news agency. “But I’m so disappointed that we get Trump and Biden again. I think it’s such a horrible thing for our country.”

DuPraw said he will now decide between Biden and Kennedy.

“I’m excited that there are other options than the two main parties,” he said.

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