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Former CT Sen. Joe Lieberman says 'No Labels' doesn't mean 'yes' to Trump

Former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman talks with reporters as he walks through the Senate subway in Washington on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Caroline Brehman
Getty Images
Former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman talks with reporters as he walks through the Senate subway in Washington on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.

The man who for more than two decades was a Connecticut senator and also ran an unsuccessful campaign for vice president is putting himself back into the national political spotlight.

Joe Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-Independent, is now the founding chair of “No Labels,” a self-described centrist political organization, which he said will give Americans an alternative to Republican and Democratic Party candidates.

“The parties are failing the American people because they're rarely willing to do anything but attack for political reasons,” Lieberman said in an interview with Connecticut Public. “That's what No Labels is trying to break up.”

Which raises the question: Is Lieberman’s No Labels Party preparing to upend the 2024 presidential election by running a third-party candidate?

“There’s been no decision about running a candidate yet,” Lieberman said.

But that doesn’t mean the group isn’t busy. This week, No Labels has been meeting with the press and with voters in New Hampshire, “to release our Common Sense policy agenda, which is based on more than a year of interviews, polling of the American people,” Lieberman said. “It shows really that the American people are not divided. It's their political leaders – Republicans and Democrats in Washington – who are divided.”

The items in the agenda include policy points that may provoke reactions of satisfaction and loathing from both sides of the political aisle. On immigration, “the border does need to be secured," Lieberman said. "But they (Americans) also feel that immigrants make a big contribution to America and, in fact, we ought to increase legal immigration.”

The No Labels position on guns favors the Second Amendment while also supporting background checks, which Lieberman said “should unite the American people.”

In the last century, no third-party candidate has been able to best H. Ross Perot’s presidential run in 1992, which netted him 19% of the popular vote. No third-party candidate has won any Electoral College votes since George Wallace won 46 in 1968.

But that doesn’t mean third-party candidates don’t make an impact, potentially affecting the outcome of elections by siphoning votes from one of the top two candidates.

Recently on MSNBC, Rick Wilson, the co-founder of the prominent anti-Donald Trump group The Lincoln Project, described No Labels as being “funded by Republicans.” It is now operated and staffed by many of the people who came out of the Republican National Committee and Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's office, Wilson said. He cautioned that the group could take away votes from Biden and help re-elect former President Trump.

Lieberman balks at the suggestion that by running a third-party candidate next fall No Labels could, or wants to, assist Trump in reclaiming the White House.

“It's quite the opposite,” Lieberman said. “And if we think it might happen, I don't think we'll run the ticket.”

“A lot of Republicans who are involved with No Labels feel that Donald Trump basically took their party away and took it in a direction that they not only disagree with, but they think threatens our country,” Lieberman said.

A town hall event Monday in New Hampshire featured West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and former Utah Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman. Lieberman wouldn’t confirm that the pair could be the eventual No Labels candidates for president and vice president.

Instead, he said, he hopes it won’t be necessary for No Labels to enter the race at all.

“We will never run a third presidential ticket, a bipartisan ticket, if either or both of the parties begins to move back toward the center and commits itself to working with the other party to solve some of our problems,” Lieberman said.

“Fighting each other on the big issues,” he said, “make(s) us a weaker country.”

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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