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Political group No Labels is closer to putting forward a candidate for president

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Here in the U.S., Americans are facing a choice between two candidates for president come November, President Biden and former President Donald Trump. But a lot of Americans say they're not enthused. They want something different. And the third-party movement, No Labels, is leaning into that sentiment with plans to offer a bipartisan unity ticket. The centrist group says it's appointing a panel today to pick that candidate. So how will this impact the election? To discuss that, we turn now to Chris Stirewalt. He is a contributing editor at The Dispatch and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS STIREWALT: Good morning to you.

FADEL: So how would No Labels offering up a different choice impact the election because there are other third-party candidates looking at being on the ballot?

STIREWALT: Well, we have a unique election.

FADEL: Yes.

STIREWALT: We have the first repeat election since 1956 and the first since the 19th century to feature a sitting president versus a former president. So polls tell us that there are very few, relative to four years ago, undecided voters - 5% or so, compared to about 10% at this point four years ago. But there are a lot of voters, 25 or 30% of voters, who - I think the technical term is grossed out by the choice in front of them, and they are - they're eager to have something else. But the question always is, but what? No Labels believes that it can offer something that - well, maybe let me put it this way. They have competing mandates. One is to try to win. They say that they really are serious about trying to win, even though they don't really have ballot access at this point in such a way that it would make it feasible to win by any means other than throwing the election to the House of Representatives. So they have that one mandate, and then they have the other mandate, which is to not let Donald Trump get reelected, basically. So they're stuck.

FADEL: Well, you know, there's a lot of criticism around that point specifically. We've heard a lot of concern that all a third-party candidate like this would do is pull votes from Trump or Biden and could hurt Biden in particular and hand the race to Trump. Is that a fair criticism in your view?

STIREWALT: Well, Pat McCrory, the moderate former Republican governor of North Carolina, quit - just quit as...

FADEL: Yeah.

STIREWALT: ...The co-chairman of No Labels. Larry Hogan opted out to run for a Senate seat in his Maryland. Joe Manchin has dropped out.

FADEL: Yeah.

STIREWALT: We've seen a lot of big names associated with the effort drop out. And I think a lot of that, and I'm not - I don't have any secret knowledge about what Governor McCrory was thinking, but what people tell me when I talk to folks who are interested in this, members of Congress who quietly were kind of hoping something good might come out of it, is exactly what you say, which is there are many voters who are conservative-leaning by their nature. They favor lower taxes. They're - they want tough-on-crime policies. They're concerned about the border. But they just don't want to vote for Donald Trump. Democrats want to heighten the contrast and basically force those folks. If you think about the suburbs of Philadelphia or the suburbs of Milwaukee or Detroit or Western Michigan or Phoenix or Atlanta, they're thinking about these voters, and they want to heighten the contrast so that these folks feel obliged to vote for Joe Biden and that if there is a palatable option that they can slide into that place and lodge a protest vote there instead of voting Democratic.

FADEL: Now, you point out all these big names that have dropped out. No Labels has had some difficulty, as you point out, to try to get someone to be their presidential candidate. So how is the group going to pick someone with the broad appeal that it's hoping for?

STIREWALT: Well, Joe Lieberman told The Washington Post - the former Democrat turned independent told The Washington Post that they were going to announce a selection committee today.

FADEL: Right.

STIREWALT: So this is like a smoke-filled room with a glass wall, basically. There - it's not going to be a democratic process, but it's going to be a somewhat transparent process, I guess, in which people will be able to observe. Now, the Wall Street Journal reported former Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan is under consideration by this yet-to-be-named panel. And Duncan would speak to the thing that would allay some of those concerns. He's a conservative, and he's from a red state and might hurt Trump more than Biden. But we'll see what they do.

FADEL: Right. And he's best known for rejecting the lie that the election was stolen in Georgia. That's Chris Stirewalt. He's a contributing editor at The Dispatch and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Thank you.

STIREWALT: Heck, yeah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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