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No Labels asks state Democratic chairs to back off after Biden said democracy allows for third party

A group laying the groundwork for a possible third-party presidential ticket is pleading with state Democratic Party officials not to interfere with its work after President Joe Biden said its leaders have a democratic right to create a new party.

No Labels officials pointed to the president’s recent comments in an open letter sent Tuesday to state party chairs, framing their work as advancing the democratic principles that Biden has stood up for. They are angry that anti-No Labels talking points developed by the center-left group Third Way were distributed to state party leaders.

“We urge you to tell your state and national leadership that you will not participate in actions that threaten the very principles of liberty and freedom that are the bedrock of our democracy,” wrote three No Labels leaders, which include former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and former head of the NAACP Benjamin Chavis Jr. “Please make it clear you’re committed to giving all Americans the voice and choice they want and deserve.”

Biden publicly addressed No Labels over the weekend for the first time when he was asked about Lieberman’s support for the group, which Democrats fear could act as a spoiler in the 2024 election. Biden and Lieberman, both former senators, are longtime friends.

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“He has a democratic right to do it. There’s no reason not to do that,” Biden told ProPublica in an interview. “Now, it’s going to help the other guy, and he knows. That’s a political decision he’s making that I obviously think is a mistake. But he has a right to do that.”

The Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign have said little about No Labels while organizations including Third Way, MoveOn and the Lincoln Project make a public case against the group.

Third Way made a presentation to state Democratic Party leaders in a meeting organized by the Association of State Democratic Committees, and its talking points were later distributed to state party officials. The Third Way memo said it’s important to do “everything we can to stop this effort NOW” before it becomes “a runaway train.”

The executive director of the Utah Democratic Party forwarded them on to county leaders in his state, according to an email first reported by CBS News.

“The DNC has asked for state and county parties not to make any public statements right now about No Labels (although they are okay with elected officials speaking out publicly against them),” he wrote.

No Labels has not filed campaign finance disclosures that other political parties routinely file with state and federal election officials, and its leaders refuse to say who is funding their work, which has a budget pegged at $70 million. No Labels critics, including Third Way, say it’s hypocritical for an anonymously funded group with opaque decision-making to question the Democratic Party’s commitment to transparency.

No Labels has secured ballot access in 11 states with a goal of getting all of them by Election Day next year. Its leaders say they’ll offer their ballot line to a moderate bipartisan “unity ticket” if the parties are on track to nominate Biden and Donald Trump for a rematch and they feel their candidate has a path to victory.

Many Democrats and other Trump critics say No Labels can’t win but could siphon enough votes to cost Biden the election.

Biden’s razor-thin Electoral College victory in 2020 depended on support from anti-Trump Republicans and right-leaning conservatives. He’ll need a similar coalition to win reelection, and even a small number of defections to No Labels or another third party could be enough to tip battleground states in Trump’s direction.

“We’re saying to the Democratic National Committee, ‘Hey, the titular head of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, said that he respects our right to do what we’re doing,’” Lieberman told The Associated Press in an interview. “And we expect now that you’ll follow the president’s leadership and wise counsel.”

No Labels leaders say they’ll only give their ballot line to a presidential candidate if they see a path to victory, but key questions remain unanswered, including who will make that decision and how a candidate would be selected during a convention scheduled for April in Dallas.

“I have a lot of respect and a lot of affection for Joe Biden,” Lieberman said. “But I think the country and particularly young people are asking for a third choice. That’s the question that we’re going to have to answer, whether a third choice has a chance to win.”

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