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No Labels will not nominate a third-party presidential candidate for 2024 election

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The group known as No Labels will not be running a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yes, they made the announcement Thursday afternoon, saying they are ending their effort to, quote, "put forth a unity ticket". The news makes the race slightly less complicated and may have President Biden and former President Trump both breathing a little easier.

FADEL: Joining us now to talk about it is NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben. Hi, Danielle.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So let's start with the basics. Who's No Labels, and why did they decide to back out?

KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So No Labels is a centrist group that was formed back in 2010 to foster bipartisan cooperation. So for a long time, they were one of any number of groups here in D.C. with lofty mission statements. But their profile grew in the run-up to 2024 because they started saying that they were going to run a presidential candidate, and they were serious. They got onto the ballot in 21 states, and they were working to get on it nationwide, and it was widely reported they had some pretty wealthy backers. So that's why this is a big deal that they're not running anyone. Now, they said in that statement that they simply couldn't find a candidate. No Labels said in that statement they were only ever going to offer their ballot to moderate candidates, quote, "with a credible path to winning the White House". And they added that since they didn't find any candidate, their responsible course of action was, quote, "for us to stand down".

Now, while we don't know the full list of contenders they were considering, we do know that a lot of people this year who were considered potential No Labels candidates - one after another, they just said they wouldn't run. You had West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, former New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, once she dropped out of the GOP race.

FADEL: Now, we've heard from voters a thirst for a third-party candidate, and yet here's this group that couldn't even get a candidate to agree to run. So what does it tell us about third-party runs or centrism in the U.S.?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, we already knew the main lesson here, which is that it's difficult in any circumstance to have a viable third-party candidate, especially in our two-party system. And it's easy to talk about in the abstract, which No Labels often did, you know, saying that maybe voters would like another choice. But once you try to find the right person to buck the system and bring everybody together, things just get way harder. But you could also argue that this year, it was especially hard. Now, No Labels often made the case that they needed to put up a candidate because so many voters just aren't thrilled with Biden or Trump. Now, that is true, but at least in 2024, the corollary to that is a lot of negative partisanship. You have a lot of people, however they feel about their own party's nominee, who are just more scared of the other party winning, and so there are a lot of powerful people with knives out for No Labels. Late last year, for example, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared No Labels, quote, "perilous to our democracy" because of their potential presidential run.

FADEL: So the fact that they're not running a candidate - what does that mean for the Biden and Trump campaigns?

KURTZLEBEN: It's really hard to tell because we don't know who they were going to nominate. It would have depended on who that would have been, but I can tell you that several Democratic leading groups have put out statements that are really openly celebrating this, along with The Lincoln Project, which opposes Donald Trump. These groups definitely seem to be breathing easier because some were very, very worried that No Labels would split the anti-Trump vote. And either way, I should add, there are third-party candidates, most notably Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who's polling around 11%, who are already making this race also quite complicated.

FADEL: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
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