America’s most influential conservative editorial page has picked a Republican to break the Biden v. Trump stalemate. And his name is Chris Sununu.
“No Labels says its polling shows the public is open to a third-party candidate—59 percent of all voters would consider a moderate independent, including 53 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats. No Labels is already on the ballot in five states and hopes to get on all 50,” the WSJ editorialized Wednesday.
“Who those candidates are would be crucial, and in our view, it might require a moderate Republican like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu at the top of the ticket. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin would be a plausible veep nominee,” the WSJ added.
No Labels is an independent organization that says it is creating an “insurance policy” in case the two parties nominate Biden and Trump. In its public statements, No Labels reiterates that it has “not yet committed” to nominating a candidate and “we will run ONLY under the proper environmental conditions, which must be met for us to proceed.”
As No Labels co-founder David Walker put it, “No Labels has made it clear that it will not offer a third option if there is no path to victory in the Electoral College.”
In its podcast, WSJ editorial board member Kyle Peterson said it was unclear what impact a No Labels candidacy would have on the general election.
“If it is Joe Manchin, for example, leading the No Labels ticket, then you maybe could see many Democrats crossing over and voting for him and that being a boost to Donald Trump. On the other hand, one of the [potential] No Labels candidates is Chris Sununu, the very popular New Hampshire Republican governor. I mean, it’s not all clear to me that this is definitely a gain for Trump, and it could be the reverse.”
It is no secret that Americans are frustrated by the prospect of a Biden vs. Trump rematch. A recent YouGov poll found only 33 percent of voters want Donald Trump to run, and just 26 percent want Joe Biden in the race.
At the same time, political professionals like GOP strategist David Carney dismiss the No Labels effort as unserious.
“The next six months will be a sky-high induced nirvana that, if bottled and sold, would solve the world’s illegal drug trade,” Carney quipped. “Rumors of the day are political catnip with zero responsibility of being based on anything but fun, titillating conjecture.”
Others aren’t so sure, noting the organization has raised around $70 million and has espoused a very clear mission. “The whole idea is to save the republic from Donald Trump,” former GOP strategist and No Labels founder Mark McKinnon told Politico.
That feeds speculation about putting a moderate Republican like Sununu on the ticket, someone appealing to the affluent, suburban voters who have fled the GOP since 2016. And, strategists point out, Sununu comes from a small state with just four Electoral votes. The fact that he is so high on the potential third-party candidate list is a testament to his political talent, not the influence of the state he represents.
Still, the odds of a third-party candidacy being able to assemble a 270 Electoral College majority are long.
“Look at Ross Perot,” said Matt Terrill of D.C.-based Firehouse Strategies. “He was one of the most successful third-party candidates and didn’t come close to winning. He just helped [former President Bill] Clinton win.”
At the same time, Terrill continued, there is a major difference between 1992 and today. “Look at how much distrust there is in institutions. Well, political parties are institutions. If the distrust and dissatisfaction continue to grow, who knows what could happen by the time we reach the general election” in November 2024.
No Labels is tapping into that distrust, trying to funnel frustrated voters into a third option. It will hold its official “Common Sense Kickoff” event at Saint Anselm’s College in Manchester on Monday, July 17, at 5:00 p.m., where it will release its “Common Sense” policy booklet.
So, could Sununu be the Republican who can get swing suburban voters to vote third party? His poll numbers and election results in the Granite State, with a disproportionate number of college-educated suburban voters, show he is an appealing candidate.
But a Sununu spokesperson tells NHJournal it is not in the cards.
“The governor is solely focused on serving the people of New Hampshire and helping the Republican ticket in 2024,” Ben Vihstadt said in a statement.
Former NHGOP chair Fergus Cullen also wants to see Sununu on the ballot in 2024, just not for POTUS.
“I want Sununu to run for re-election because I think he may be the only Republican who can win in New Hampshire if Trump is losing to Biden [as polls indicated] 48-40 percent. An open seat would likely go to the Democrats.
“I hear Chris wants to retire, but I don’t think he can yet.”