For months, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has said he plans to continue his long-shot challenge against President Biden in the Democratic primary rather than dropping out to launch a third-party bid.
But lately Mr. Kennedy’s message has seemed to shift, including publicly telling a voter who asked about his plans that he was keeping his “options open.”
If Mr. Kennedy does decide to leave the party of his famous father and uncles to run in the general election, one potential landing spot may be the Libertarian Party, which at the moment lacks a widely known candidate but has excelled at securing ballot access.
In July, Mr. Kennedy met privately with Angela McArdle, the chair of the Libertarian Party, at a conference they were both attending in Memphis — a meeting that has not previously been reported….
In a general election, Democrats worry that a third-party run by Mr. Kennedy could draw votes away from Mr. Biden and help elect former President Donald J. Trump. They have expressed similar concerns about No Labels, the bipartisan group trying to recruit a moderate candidate for a third-party run, and also about the progressive scholar Cornel West, who is already in the race to lead the Green Party’s ticket for 2024.
The centrist group No Labels has targeted Republican donors disaffected with Donald Trump, pitching its unity ticket as a way to beat the former president without funding an entity assisting President Joe Biden.
Such a strategy was confirmed by three people who have either heard the pitch or are familiar with it and were granted anonymity to speak candidly about private fundraising conversations. It could have profound political ripple effects, complicating both the current Republican primary and future general election by siphoning funds away from candidates and entities challenging Trump to a ticket that does not yet exist.
Some Republicans say No Labels insists that donations to it are “a good way to keep Trump out and not have to donate to Biden,” according to a person representing a corporate CEO who was approached by the group. The person is receptive to No Labels’ message of bipartisanship — but skeptical of the organization’s aims to mount a third-party bid.
No Labels spokesperson Maryanne Martini said in a statement, “Once again anonymous sources are inventing hidden agendas for No Labels’ 2024 insurance project. We’re very clear about what we’re doing and why, which is to give voice to America’s commonsense majority by getting ballot access in states nationwide.”
Democrats have expressed alarm with the group’s approach. They warn that No Labels’ presidential ticket would likely harm Biden even as the group insists that it will not play the role of spoiler. One donor who frequently attends No Labels meetings said virtual sessions have recently focused on “the backlash” that No Labels is getting from Democrats.
Udi Ofer in Law.com, reviewing amicus briefs in a case before the N.J. Supreme Court challenging the state’s ban on cross-nominating candidates.
WaPo: “The group is working across the country to get state ballot access for a potential third-party presidential run next year, sparking widespread concern from Democrats and anti-Trump conservatives that the effort could aide the election of former president Trump.” More on the spoiler candidate possibility from 538 and Politico.
Sharing a chapter I have written for The Oxford Handbook of American Election Law (Eugene Mazo, ed.) (2023, forthcoming). The chapter, among other things, stresses the ways that the U.S. Supreme Court’s current approach to the associational freedom of political parties significantly constrains party reform strategies. Given the manifest need for party regulation in the interest of a healthy democracy and the recent buzz around Lee Drutman’s report and op ed arguing for more and better parties, this seems a good time to share.
Julie Bykowicz for WSJ:
The 13-year-old nonprofit group, which has a $70 million budget, has qualified for the ballot in Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Utah and is pursuing access elsewhere. Arizona Democrats are suing to kick No Labels off the ballot, and the group says it expects more lawsuits in other states where it wins access.
The ballot drive in Maine has collided with a Democratic secretary of state who accused the group of leading voters to think they were merely signing a petition when they were actually signing up to join its party.
The liberal group MoveOn recently sent letters to secretaries of state asking them to investigate whether No Labels is doing the same in their states. No Labels says it isn’t misleading anyone. …
Questions about the motives of No Labels are compounded by the secrecy surrounding its finances.
The group’s leaders say naming their donors would subject them to scrutiny and intimidation. Past known donors include executives in the finance and energy industries whose campaign contributions largely lean Republican.
Crow, the Republican developer, has spoken at No Labels events and made contributions.
Fox News reports that the emergent centrist, No Labels party will be forming a committee to start vetting potential presidential candidates.
“No Labels is aiming to get on the ballot in all 50 states in order to be in the position to possibly field a third party ticket next year if President Biden and former President Trump are the major party nominees in 2024.”
William Galston with an op-ed in the WSJ.
New in the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, from Capital’s Mark Brown: a review of recent ballot access battles in Ohio. I suspect there’s even more to add to the “major-party monopoly” argument if you add the legislature’s all-out gerrymandering war with the state Supreme Court, and the attempt to raise the threshold for citizen amendments.
Spotlight PA has a feature on Pennsylvania school board elections with closed primaries (you’ve got to be a member of the party to vote in that party’s primary) and cross-filing (in which candidates can appear on multiple parties’ ballots).
I’m told that candidates who filed in two primaries and won both would appear on both party lines in the general election, making this a form of fusion voting. (Related but unrelated, there’s more news in fusion: across the Delaware, there’s news yesterday that a suit contesting a fusion ban in NJ can proceed.)
A proposed change to next year’s Montana U.S. Senate primary that could have hurt Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s reelection chances is likely dead after a state legislative committee shelved the GOP-backed measure Wednesday.
Some Republican lawmakers urged on by a GOP lobbyist wanted to alter Montana’s 2024 Senate primary so that only the top two candidates, no matter their party, would advance to the November election.
That would have effectively blocked out third-party candidates, who Republicans blamed for draining away potential GOP votes during past attempts to unseat Tester.
The race’s national importance helped fuel outrage over the bid to change the primary rules. Critics, including Democratic lawmakers and representatives of the Libertarian party, blasted it as a blatant attempt to rig the election.
A top-two primary, but only for U.S. Senate, and only for 2024. That’s in one bill that Montana legislators advanced on Monday.
A second Montana bill advancing Monday would raise thresholds for parties to qualify for the ballot, and raise signature requirements for parties not yet qualified.
In 2018, the Libertarian candidate drew 3% of the vote for U.S. Senate in a 50-47 contest. But I’m sure that’s coincidence.
Hat tip to Richard Winger, of course, on the news.
I’d be intrigued to see if there’s any correlation between the major-party vote margin and the permissiveness of a state’s minor-party ballot access structure.