Fearing third parties will sabotage Trump’s case, Biden’s allies try to crush them | ET REALITY


President Biden’s powerful allies are working aggressively to stop independent and third-party presidential bids, fearing that an outside candidacy could cost Democrats an election that many believe will again come down to a few percentage points in key battleground states. of battle.

As attempts to mount outside campaigns multiply, a broad coalition has accelerated a multifaceted attack to deprive such efforts of financial and political support and warn fellow Democrats that support for outside candidates, including the centrist organization No Labels, could throw the election away from former President Donald J. .Trump.

Biden’s top advisers have blessed the multibillion-dollar, party-wide offensive, leveraging the resources of the Democratic National Committee, labor unions, abortion rights groups, major donors and advocacy groups backing the moderate and liberal democrats. Even the president has helped spread the word: Mr. Biden, in an interview with ProPublicaHe said a No Labels candidacy would “help the other.”

The effort is powerful. In Washington, Democratic allies are working alongside top party strategists to spread negative information about potential outside candidates. Across the country, lawyers have begun investigating measures to limit ballot access, or at least make it more expensive to qualify.

At expensive resorts and closed-door conferences, Democratic donors urge their friends not to fund potential spoiler candidates. And in key states, lone operators, including an Arizona librarian, are trying their own tactics to make life difficult for third-party contenders.

Anxiety over candidates and parties traditionally marginalized in American politics reflects voters’ deep dissatisfaction with both men likely to become major party nominees. No third-party candidate has broken single digits in three decades, since Ross Perot won nearly a fifth of the vote in 1992. Given the devotion of Trump’s most ardent supporters, Democrats fear that most Some of the wear and tear would come from Biden’s fragile coalition.

“They have to understand the risk they are exposing the country to by doing this,” said Richard A. Gephardt, a former House majority leader and Democratic Party veteran who has formed a super PAC to attack outside campaigns. “This is too dangerous an idea to put into practice in this context, in this year. These are not normal times.”

Gephardt warned that third-party candidates threatened not only Biden’s chances of victory but also the stability of American democracy. Internal polls conducted by his group found that an independent centrist candidate could attract more than 20 percent of the vote in competitive states, helping Trump in all but one.

Richard A. Gephardt, former Democratic House majority leader, has warned that third-party candidates threaten not only President Biden’s chances of victory but also the stability of American democracy.Credit…Steve Jennings/Getty Images for square roots

In recent days, two candidates have taken steps to file independent bids. Cornel West, the left-wing Harvard professor, announced Thursday that he would run as an independent candidate. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has hinted that he could announce Monday that he will drop out of the Democratic presidential primary race to run as an independent. A super PAC backing his bid has already raised $17 million, according to Tony Lyons, the group’s treasurer.

Still, most of the attention of Biden’s allies is directed to No Labels, the best-funded outside organization, which after years of sponsoring bipartisan congressional caucuses is working to gain ballot access for a presidential candidate for the first time. time.

The group’s executive director, Nancy Jacobson, has told potential donors and allies that No Labels’ candidate will be a moderate Republican, according to three people familiar with the conversations. That decision would exclude Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a Democrat whose flirtation with the idea has sparked a wave of angst within his party.

No Labels has already raised $60 million, Jacobson said in an interview, and has qualified for the ballot in 11 states, including the presidential battlegrounds of Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina. The group plans to spend about half the money on ensuring ballot access in all 50 states.

Jacobson said his organization was dedicated to presenting voters with an option beyond Biden and Trump. No Labels is researching potential candidates now and will announce its delegate selection process in the coming weeks, he said. The plan is to hold a nominating convention in April in Dallas and anoint a presidential ticket if it’s clear the country is headed for a rematch in 2020.

Jacobson and his chief strategist, Ryan Clancy, insist their effort is in good faith and not a secret plot to help Trump win.

“We’re never going to be a part of anything that could ruin things for Trump,” Clancy said.

No Labels has focused its recent polls on eight states expected to be competitive in a race between Biden and Trump, although Clancy said he believed a No Labels bid would be viable in 25 states. If an independent or third-party candidate gained traction, he could reshuffle the entire presidential map, potentially turning states like New York or Texas into veritable battlegrounds.

Kennedy has also been a source of concern for Democrats, who worry that his anti-corporate politics and famous last name could drive some of their voters away from Biden. But some of Biden’s top allies also believe that Kennedy, who has increasingly pushed right-wing ideas, would hurt Trump.

The broad Democratic malaise is rooted in the fundamental belief that Trump has both a high ceiling and a low floor of support in the general election, meaning his voters are less likely to be swayed by a third party or candidate. independent. Biden has broader appeal, but his supporters are not as loyal, and polls have suggested they could be persuaded to back someone else if given more options.

Public and private surveys They point to greater interest in alternatives in these elections. In survey released this week by Monmouth UniversityMost voters said they were not enthusiastic about Trump or Biden being at the top of their party’s ticket and would not back either if the race became a rematch.

Matt Bennett, co-founder of the center-left group Third Way, which acts as a clearinghouse for Democrats’ efforts to block independent and third-party candidates, is working with the progressive organization MoveOn and a host of like-minded Biden allies . to discourage anyone from having any association with No Labels. Those efforts are funded by more than $1 million from Reid Hoffman, the billionaire Democratic megadonor.

Bennett is using Third Way’s connections with centrist donors to try to block No Labels’ access to money, while Rahna Epting, CEO of MoveOn, has been informing other progressive groups and unions about the dangers of their members supporting To thirds. -Party candidates instead of Mr. Biden.

“Anything that divides the anti-Trump coalition is bad,” Bennett said.

Marc Elias, one of the party’s most tenacious and litigating election lawyers, has been hired by American Bridge, the Democratic Party’s premier opposition research organization, to examine ballot qualification efforts by No Labels and others. third party efforts.

And the Democratic National Committee has ordered state and county party leaders not to say anything publicly about No Labels, according to an email the Utah Democratic Party sent to county leaders in the state.

“We need to do everything we can to stop this effort NOW, and not wait until they ask for a ticket and this becomes a runaway train,” wrote Thom DeSirant, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, in a letter that links included to the Third Way talking points about how to talk about Without Labels.

The efforts resemble hand-to-hand political combat, both in public and private. The pro-abortion group Reproductive Freedom for All wrote on social media that Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a former Republican governor of Utah who has been linked to the No Labels ticket, is an “abortion extremist,” based on the anti-abortion views he articulated during his 2012 presidential campaign.

And Michael Steele, who was lieutenant governor of Maryland and chairman of the Republican National Committee, has taken on the responsibility of persuading former Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, a moderate Republican who has played publicly with accepting No Labels’ nomination, to end his association with the group.

“I told the governor what I think he should do,” Steele said.

Perhaps nowhere else has No Labels encountered as many real-world obstacles as in Arizona.

After the group successfully qualified for the presidential election, the Arizona Democratic Party sued to remove it. That legal effort failed, but the attention led to two people filing candidate statements to run for down-ballot offices on the No Labels ballot, something the group had tried to block to avoid being categorized as a political party, which could generate requirements. reveal No Labels’ donors, who until now have been kept secret.

For different reasons, Arizona candidates pursuing the No Labels line could prove uncomfortable for the movement.

One of them, Tyson Draper, a high school coach from Thatcher, Arizona, looks for the group’s line to run for the Senate. In an interview last week, he called himself a centrist political newcomer who had never before sought public office. One day later, he presented papers to start a movement to recall Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat.

The other No Labeler hopeful is Richard Grayson, an assistant librarian at a community college south of Phoenix.

Grayson, 72, seeks No Labels nomination for the state Corporation Commission, which regulates public services. He has run for public office dozens of times. since 1982and said he was a Biden supporter.

“I’m a perennial candidate whose goal is to torture No Labels,” he said. “I am enjoying it immensely. “I am tormenting them.”

Rebecca Davis O’Brien contributed with reports.

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