Senator Joe Manchin (W.Va.) will headline a No Labels event in New Hampshire this weekend as his fellow Democrats work to stop the self-described centrist group from running a third-party presidential candidate in 2024.
The event, first reported by the Daily Mail, will take place on July 17 at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, a popular spot for presidential primary candidates. Former Republican governor John Huntsman will also attend what was described as a "townhall meeting." The moderate Manchin has been floated by senior No Labels staff as a top contender for the group’s presidential gambit for months.
It is unclear whether No Labels is capable of mounting a serious political operation in 2024. The Washington Free Beacon reported that No Labels controlled just $10 million in assets at the end of 2021, a far cry from the $70 million it says it is prepared to spend on a presidential candidate. The group has not even committed to running a candidate, saying only that it is "preparing for the possibility of nominating a candidate" should "proper environmental conditions" arise.
Still, Democrats are anxious to keep those proper conditions at bay. A group of Democratic operatives and former White House staffers, including former chief of staff Ron Klain, convened in June to discuss No Labels. During that meeting, according to the Washington Post, Democrats implored No Labels to ditch their presidential ambitions, pointing to polls that show a moderate candidate jumping into the race would heavily favor Republicans as Biden faces historically low approval ratings. A coalition led by former House minority leader Dick Gephardt (D., Mo.) and former senator Doug Jones (D., Ala.) is also working to stop the bipartisan group from entering the race, the Washington Post reported.
No Labels says its research shows that Democrats are overreacting.
"They are really working overtime to prevent the voters from a choice," No Labels cofounder and former senator Joe Lieberman (D., Conn.) said. "We feel that the voters in this country deserve a third choice, a bipartisan choice. And I will also repeat that we will not be spoilers in this."
Although Manchin has yet to announce a Senate reelection bid, polls routinely find him behind his likely Republican challenger, West Virginia governor Jim Justice. Manchin has been coy about his presidential ambitions, recently dismissing speculation by saying "everybody’s getting so worked up and scared to death and we’re a year and a half away."
"I don’t rule out anything," he said. "There’s tremendous concern about our country and the direction the country is going in. That’s all."
No Labels says it would not announce a candidate until next year. For now, it is working on gaining ballot access in all 50 states.