Saturday, March 18, 2023


Semafor's Benjy Sarlin is not worried about the possibility that a No Labels presidential campaign could elect Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis:

Yes, Kanye West was on the ballot in 2020 -- sort of.
On July 16, 2020, the [West] campaign filed a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. He entered the election after missing at least six states' deadlines to appear on the ballot as a third-party candidate....

West qualified for ballot access in 12 states.... The campaign sued for ballot access in five additional states (Arizona, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia and West Virginia), and subsequently lost all appeals, gave up on four other states (Illinois, Montana, Missouri, and New Jersey), and missed the deadlines of a further 29 states, plus the District of Columbia.
Not only did West have limited ballot access, he barely campaigned. And he ran in a year when Democrats (and many swing voters) were desperate to defeat the incumbent Republican president.

There are elections in which Democratic and swing voters pull together because the GOP is in power and seems extremely unpalatable. In 2008, the desire to avoid a third GOP term after George W. Bush's disastrous second term overcame many Hillary Clinton voters' resentment of Barack Obama; in 2016, anti-Trump disgust led 81 million voters to rally around Joe Biden. But after Democrats have been in office for a while, it can be harder to prevent defections. That's what happened in 2000 (after eight years of Bill Clinton) and 2016 (after eight years of Obama): some progressive and moderate voters forgot how bad Republicans could be and helped another one to win.

It's not clear which kind of year 2024 will be. Is the memory of Trump's term fading, or will it still be fresh? If DeSantis is the nominee, will he seem like a break with Trumpism? We don't know what voters will think. I worry that they'll be complacent about the GOP, so I don't want a third-party candidate to peel off even one or two percent of the vote.

Who might be on a No Labels ticket? The Bulwark article Sarlin is criticizing offers some possibilities:
Fox News reports that No Labels is courting politicians like Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Susan Collins as it seeks to build a so-called “unity ticket.”
One of the replies to Sarlin's tweet expresses skepticism about that last name:

Actually, it's not. In Maine in 2020, Biden won by 9 points -- and so did Collins. The evidence suggests that there were plenty of Biden-Collins ticket splitters.

It's possible that No Labels won't run a presidential campaign at all. It's also possible that No Labels will run a campaign with a ticket that doesn't have any big names.

I've predicted that the top of the ticket will go to former Maryland governor Larry Hogan, an anti-Trump Republican who's an honorary co-chair of No Labels. And if a Republican tops the ticket, I assume No Labels will want a Democrat in the VP slot.

My guess is that the Democrat could be New York's awful mayor, Eric Adams.

Why do I say this? The Bulwark piece has some information about the people who bankroll No Labels:
The leaders of No Labels may not be intending to elect Donald Trump or his Republican successor. But that could be the goal of some of their funders. While No Labels operates “dark money” PACs whose contributors are hidden, one of its backers has been billionaire Republican megadonor Nelson Peltz, a contributor to Georgia Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both defeated in 2020; election denier Sean Parnell, who was Trump’s original endorsed Senate candidate in Pennsylvania last year; Democrat-turned-Fox News contributor Tulsi Gabbard; and House Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise. And the Daily Beast reported in 2018 that No Labels raised money from “recurring” megadonors including Trump supporter John Catsimatidis and Marc Rowan, a contributor to Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson, and Mehmet Oz in the midterms.
(Emphasis added.)

Catsimatidis is the founder CEO of Gristedes, a successful New York-based supermarket chain that's made him a billionaire. He's also quite a fan of Adams, regularly praising him, chatting with him on the radio (Catsimatidis has a local radio show), and dining with him.

If No Labels goes through with this and can't get a nationally known "centrist" Democrat (or ex-Democrat) like Manchin or Sinema, Adams will probably do. He hangs out with Republicans. He used to be a registered Republican. He regularly challenges mainstream Democratic ideas. In the past month he's questioned the idea of separation of church and state, arguing that prayer in schools would end school gun violence. He's unpopular in his own city -- his job approval rating is 37%, according to a poll released in February -- yet he still attracts headlines like this:

And since he barely does anything as mayor, and wouldn't have to run for reelection until 2025, he'd probably be fine staying on the job and running for VP.

So that's my call: if there's a No Labels ticket, it will be Larry Hogan and Eric Adams. And even though the ticket will consist of a registered Republican and a faux Democrat, it could still peel off mostly moderate 2020 Biden voters. I hope it doesn't happen.

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