No Labels Leaks & Manchin ’24 Dreams

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
May 4, 2023

No Labels, the quixotic and billionaire-friendly third party group looking to field a centrist 2024 presidential candidate, is a source of great intrigue in town. Part of the curiosity, as I’ve previously reported, derives from their recent meetings with Dem-G.O.P. hybrids, such as Joe Manchin, Larry Hogan, and Susan Collins. Part of it comes from the organic curiosity and concern about whether there is room in American politics for a third party, and whether a modern day Ross Perot would just facilitate a plurality victory for Trump. And, sure, some people worry about the optics of guys like Steve Schwarzman and a group of enigmatic billionaires having an outsized role in selecting the leader of the free world. 

But part of it simply stems from the group’s undeniable and intrinsic secrecy. Most politicians and operatives always somehow find the time to offer a quote or a text, even if it’s on background. But my multiple requests for interviews with No Labels have always been rebuffed. I was once told by C.E.O. Nancy Jacobson, “What’s best for Democracy is confidentiality.” Even former senator Joe Lieberman was mum when I peppered him with questions about the group after disembarking from an American Airlines flight we both happened to be on. (Don’t worry, I let him fly in peace, for what it’s worth.)  

Despite their clandestine behavior, No Labels is serious: they’re ready to put $70 million behind a so-called unity ticket. In order to offer a more comprehensive view into their thinking, I’m sharing snippets from a recent No Labels call with their supporters that was leaked to me. It evidences, among other things, that their grassroots supporters are in fact very smart, sincere, and genuinely concerned about what the group is doing. Jacobson, for her part, was characteristically blunt. She said that they have been “Pearl Harbored” by a memo by another rival 501(c)4 centrist think tank, Third Way, that was published in March. When one caller expressed concern about accepting donations from Harlan Crow, the Republican real estate billionaire who has been funding Clarence Thomas’s lifestyle, Jacobson remarked, “If you don’t want that, this isn’t the place for you.”