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John Fortier

Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

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Opinion

How a No Labels candidate might affect outcome of 2024 election

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John Fortier

Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

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Amid increasing polarization in the United States and the anticipation of a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, a third-party organization is gaining momentum. The No Labels group has successfully registered 15,000 voters in the pivotal state of Arizona and is on a path to expand its presence to all 50 states by Election Day.

Some Democrats worry that a third-party candidate could siphon votes away from Biden. At the same time, some Republicans are concerned that an alternative to Trump may diminish their chances of securing the White House.

Straight Arrow News contributor John Fortier explores the potential candidates No Labels might endorse and breaks down which of the two major parties might face more consequences if No Labels were to field a presidential candidate.

The reaction to this effort has been twofold. Reformers like what they see in the No Labels effort. A candidacy of the center might be able to win in this environment, or at least shake up our politics. On the other side, many establishment Democrats view the No Labels effort as a threat to the Democratic Party, to Joe Biden’s reelection, and even to democracy itself.

The reformers and establishment Democrats have in common the belief that the No Labels candidates can attract a large share of the popular vote. Establishment Democrats, however, also see the effort as taking more votes from the Democratic side. So are they right? Will a No Labels presidential ticket gain a large share of the vote, and will it hurt Democrats more than Republicans?

First, how well will the new third-party ticket do in 2024? The answer is, likely, not very well. While America has a long history of third-party presidential candidates, it also has a strong history of two-party dominance.

Many reformers see an opportunity for a third party presidential candidate. The argument goes like this, America is more polarized than ever. And add on top of that. The most likely matchup in the general election is a rematch of President Joe Biden versus former President Donald Trump. What better time for third party candidate voter disgust at the two stale choices of parties and candidates paves the way for a third alternative that Americans crave to fill this need the group No Labels has stepped in to facilitate such a third party run. They are securing a ballot line in states for such a campaign. And the general speculation is that the ticket will consist of a prominent moderate Democrat and moderate republican names have been floated, including Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Republican former Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. The reaction to this effort has been twofold. reformers like what they see in the No Labels effort. A candidacy of the center might be able to win in this environment, or at least shake up our politics. On the other side, many establishment Democrats view the No Labels effort as a threat to the Democratic Party. To Joe Biden’s reelection and even to democracy itself. The reformers and establishment Democrats have in common the belief that the No Labels candidates can attract a large share of the popular vote. establishment Democrats, however, also see the effort as taking more votes from the Democratic side. So are they right? Will a no labels presidential ticket gain a large share of the vote? And will it hurt Democrats more than Republicans? First, how well will the new third party ticket do in 2024? The answer is likely not very well. While America has a long history of third party presidential candidates, it also has a strong history of two party dominance. In 2020, Joe Biden and Donald Trump combined to receive over 98% of ballots cast with just a smattering of votes going to the libertarian and Green parties and others. Even in the 2016 election, which some saw as a strong third party turnout, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump received 94% of the vote. The only elections since 1968 that stand out are the first two runs of Ross Perot who received 90% of the vote in 1992 and less than 9% in 1996. In general, third party candidates take a small share of the vote, but even here Parowan no states and receive no Electoral College votes. Further, interest in third parties wanes as Election Day approaches perosa much higher poll numbers early in the race. And in general, voters are more enamored with third parties in the abstract. But once the real election decision is upon them, they returned to the major party candidates. Finally, the emphasis on the difficulty of getting a candidate on the ballot in all 50 states is exaggerated. It is true that it takes a significant amount of money and manpower to qualify for a ballot line in all states. But we saw an effort in the 2012 election called Americans Elect. They went through the work to get a ballot line in all states only to end up not fielding a ticket and the libertarian and Green parties are on the ballot in many states. By itself, the ballot line has not guaranteed their success. The bottom line is that while it is difficult to get on the ballot everywhere. There are many other challenges beyond that to any third party run. Second, with the No Labels effort hurt Democrats more than Republicans. It is impossible to know for sure, but the way it is being pitched it would likely be slightly more attractive to Democratic leaning voters. The core audience for such an effort is college educated centrists. And this group, Democratic leaning voters are more likely than Republicans to favor values such as bipartisanship, non partisanship, and getting along. In this way. This effort looks very different than the runs of Ross Perot, who had a more populous campaign, focusing on trade and other issues of greater interest to blue collar voters. The bottom line is that the No Labels third party effort is not likely to have much of an effect. It is hard to see such a ticket cracking 5% of the vote. And while voters attracted to the ticket might lean slightly democratic, it would only be in the closest of elections that one could imagine no labels affecting the outcome.

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