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There will be no third party candidate from centrist group No Labels

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

No Labels, the group that set out to offer voters an alternative to Joe Biden or Donald Trump in this year's presidential race, has given up its effort to put up a third-party candidate. The well-funded centrist political group says that it was unable to find a candidate with a, quote, "credible path to winning the White House." For more on the group's decision, we are joined by No Labels co-founder Holly Page. Good morning, and welcome to the program.

HOLLY PAGE: Good morning.

FADEL: So, Holly, what happened? Why couldn't No Labels find a candidate to run?

PAGE: Well, listen, this was an audacious idea from the very beginning. We always knew it would take an extraordinary talent - a hero, really - to break through the gridlock and break through the hold that the two parties have currently on the electoral process. And so we were very kind of open and clear with all of our supporters and anyone else who would listen from the very beginning that we would do our part. We would get on the ballot. We would organize American voters and citizens, but it would all depend on really an amazing talent, a hero, emerging, and for whatever reason, we did our part, but the latter part just didn't happen. And rather than drag it out and terrorize everybody more, we just decided to, you know, end it here.

FADEL: So why did so many people say no? I mean, former U.N. ambassador and GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, New Jersey - former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie all said no to No Labels. What were their reasons?

PAGE: I don't think that's actually quite accurate. It's not like we went around asking 500 people. There were actually very few people who were directly asked and involved in conversations that got serious.

FADEL: And these were high-profile people that were asked, correct?

PAGE: Right. We knew - I mean, sure, we could have run with somebody that no one had ever heard of.

FADEL: Yeah.

PAGE: But then we would just reinforce the idea that somebody who spoke to the common-sense majority couldn't get elected, and we didn't want to do that. The whole reason...

FADEL: Yeah.

PAGE: ...We set out on this effort is to prove that there are voters and supporters and people all around the country, millions and millions of them, that want a different type of politics. So the worst thing we could have done is run and, you know, gotten 4% or 5%.

FADEL: From our interviews with voters, we've heard a thirst for a viable third-party candidate, voters who just don't like their choice between Biden and Trump, and yet No Labels, which wanted to put out a centrist candidate, wasn't able to. So what does that say about centrism in the United States today and this two-party system?

PAGE: I think what it says is it's what the voters want, and we're not just talking a few. We're talking 70 million voters. And, you know, we actually are seeing our effort as a victory, I mean, considering it was a small - relatively small group of people. None of us held elected office currently. We got together, and we decided to answer the call of the voters. They wanted something different, and we did everything we could to give it to them. The failure of the political system as it currently is - we'll have to contend with that, that there are a lot of voters who do not see their values reflected in the current choices.

FADEL: Now, there were a lot of Democrats, especially, who voiced concern that a No Labels candidate would have pulled votes from the main candidates, particularly from Biden, and hand the White House to Trump. Some, including Pelosi, called your efforts perilous to the future of democracy. Did that at all weigh on your decision?

PAGE: I mean, no. We - they started to say that from the very beginning, and none of that was really based on facts and numbers. Our polling modeling that we conducted nationwide with tens of thousands of Americans over years really showed a consistent pattern of drawing equally from both parties and certainly a lot of people who consider themselves independents. But the larger point is, rather than trying to stop us or shut us down, they should have started to speak to these voters, you know, and talk about what they wanted. I just heard on the Marketplace report, you know, concerns about the price of peanut butter and tin foil. That's what's happening out in the real world, OK? And Americans are so exhausted from being pitted against each other to serve short-term political goals, so I encourage both sides to really learn from what No Labels has brought into the conversation and speak to these voters and talk about what they care about.

FADEL: Holly Page is a co-founder of the centrist political group No Labels. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

PAGE: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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