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No Labels Chief Strategist Says It’s Too Late for an Independent Presidential Alternative
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No Labels Chief Strategist Says It’s Too Late for an Independent Presidential Alternative

Plus: Trump set to alter GOP’s platform on abortion and a look at how Turning Point Action vets candidates.

Happy Wednesday! A programming note: For the Independence Day holiday, we’ll be taking Friday off, barring some earth-shattering news. Otherwise, we hope you have a terrific Fourth of July and we’ll see you again on Monday. To tide you over until then, you get three items in today’s newsletter. Happy birthday, America!

Up to Speed

  • President Joe Biden told an important ally that he recognizes he may not be able to save his White House candidacy, the New York Times reported Wednesday morning. Biden said that his coming public appearances (more on these below) must not look like his debate performance with former President Donald Trump last week. The report, which has also been covered by CNN, is the first indication that Biden is considering stepping aside as the Democratic nominee. Biden administration spokesman Andrew Bates called the story “absolutely false.” 
  • Democratic members of Congress have either directly called or hinted for Biden to end his reelection bid following his disastrous debate performance and as party fears over Biden’s age and electability rise. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first sitting congressional Democrat to call for Biden’s withdrawal in a Tuesday statement. Co-chairs of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine and Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, publicly cast doubt on Biden’s reelection chances, with Golden saying, “Donald Trump is going to win” in a Tuesday op-ed. Other notable party members—former Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, Obama Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and Colorado congressional candidate Adam Frisch—have urged Biden to drop out. 
  • Biden will speak with Democratic governors in video calls and in-person meetings this evening as the president looks to restore Democrats’ confidence in his leadership and campaigning abilities. He will sit down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Friday for his first interview since the debate, excerpts of which will air on World News Tonight Friday evening before being broadcast in full Sunday morning on This Week. The president also plans to visit Madison, Wisconsin, for a campaign stop Friday afternoon. Next week, Biden will give a press conference during NATO’s annual summit in Washington, according to the White House. 
  • Vice President Kamala Harris is competitive with Trump in a CNN poll released Tuesday and conducted following last week’s debate. Trump leads Harris 47 percent to 45 percent (compared to 49 percent to 43 percent against Biden). Additionally, three-quarters of registered voters in the poll said Democrats would have a better shot at winning with someone other than Biden at the top of the ticket, including 56 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leading voters.
  • Judge Juan Merchan postponed Trump’s sentencing date in his New York hush money trial on Tuesday following the Supreme Court’s presidential immunity ruling. The New York judge approved a motion by Trump’s attorneys to delay sentencing past the scheduled date of July 11 as he determines whether to overturn Trump’s 34 felony convictions for falsifying business records by September 6. If Trump’s convictions remain, sentencing will happen as early as September 18. Trump’s lawyers contest that trial evidence consisted of “official acts” from his term in office, a classification the court’s 6-3 majority ruled on Monday was immune from prosecution.
  • Virginia declared state Sen. John McGuire the winner of the Republican primary for the state’s 5th Congressional District over House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Bob Good by a margin of 374 votes, or 0.6 points. “We will pursue the recount to settle any questions about the fairness or transparency of the election process,” campaign spokeswoman Diana Shores told the Washington Examiner. Good himself has claimed voter fraud took place.

The No Labels Moment Has Passed

Stage at the official launch of No Labels on December 13, 2010, at Columbia University in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Stage at the official launch of No Labels on December 13, 2010, at Columbia University in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ryan Clancy won’t say “I told you so.”

But the chief strategist for the political organization No Labels told Dispatch Politics in an interview Tuesday that, after the Democratic president’s poor performance in last week’s debate, he and those involved with the group feel “angry” and “frustrated” by the new calls for an alternative candidate to Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

“All the work that we put in over the last couple of years was for exactly this moment,” Clancy said. “It was an insurance policy. You hope not to use it, but you do if something happens, right?”

No Labels had sought an alternative, centrist presidential candidate to meet the demand from voters for someone other than Biden and Trump. The group had secured a ballot line in 25 states and was on track to add several more when it announced in April it was ending the effort. Without a qualified candidate willing to take the risk of an independent White House bid, No Labels could go nowhere else.

“Americans remain more open to an independent presidential run, and hungrier for unifying national leadership, than ever before,” said No Labels in a press release announcing it would not field a candidate.

But since Thursday’s debate in Atlanta, Clancy said members of the No Labels community have been emailing its leaders desperate to see if there was any chance of reversing course and fielding a candidate.

“We checked into this. We thought we owed it to ourselves and our community,” Clancy said. “We talked to our lawyers, and we talked to our ballot teams. We were like, ‘Guys, you know, is there anything that could be done here?’ And unfortunately, there really isn’t.”

The windows to obtain a line on the ballot have closed in too many states, but there remains the nagging problem that plagued No Labels from the beginning: no candidate. No Labels did brief multiple potential candidates to lead a ticket, none of whom agreed to take the plunge. Clancy placed much of the blame on Democratic Party-aligned activists—including groups like the Lincoln Project—whom he says sabotaged No Labels’ efforts in order to protect Biden by poisoning the well about the organization.

“So we’d go to a candidate, and we would brief them and their advisers, and then it would get out that we had talked to that person,” Clancy said. “And then these people that had allied against us would get back to them, and they would give their own argument for why, you know, No Labels is selling a fantasy, and you shouldn’t do that.”

Jeff Timmer, the campaign director for the Lincoln Project, defended his group’s campaign to prevent a No Labels candidacy.

“We’re proud we stopped this absolutely stupid, disingenuous, and self-serving exercise in political idiocy. And we’d do it again,” Timmer said in a statement to Dispatch Politics.

While Clancy defended No Labels’ strategy of seeking ballot access first and a presidential ticket second, he admitted that No Labels’ experience suggests that plan may not work in the future.

“I do think that if somebody were to try this in the future, somehow, some way, you probably do have to start with the candidate,” Clancy said.

Trump Poised to Rip 40-Year-Old Pro-Life Plank Out of GOP Platform

In every presidential election since 1984, the pro-life plank in the Republican party’s platform has declared: “We endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” 

But all signs are pointing toward Donald Trump ripping that Reagan-era plank out of the platform and replacing it with something to his own liking that removes any reference to the 14th Amendment and federal legislation.

During his successful 2016 campaign, Trump campaigned on signing a federal limit on abortion at 20 weeks after conception with exceptions. But since the 2022 Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, he has changed course. Trump blamed the abortion issue for the GOP’s underwhelming 2022 midterm performance. During the GOP primary against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump attacked Florida’s Heartbeat Protection Act, which generally bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, as “terrible.” He formally announced in April of this year that he opposes any new federal limits on abortion. 

While the precise text of Trump’s 2024 pro-life plank is not clear, pro-life leaders now expect it to be released this Sunday and approved by the Republican National Convention’s platform committee in closed-door meetings on Monday or Tuesday—before the convention officially begins. On Tuesday, Politico reported that two anti-abortion activists had been blocked by the Trump campaign from serving on the platform committee. One pro-life leader told Dispatch Politics that the committee has been “overwhelmingly stacked” with people who will ensure the pro-life plank is changed to “reflect Donald Trump and his thinking.”

Pro-life leaders are sounding the alarm. In a July 1 letter to RNC Chairman Michael Whatley obtained by Dispatch Politics, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, made his concerns clear.

“Based on the limited communications delegates have received, it appears that neither guests nor the press will be allowed to observe the platform committee or subcommittee discussions of the Party’s principles and policy priorities,” Perkins wrote. “The Party’s platforms have provided guidance not just to presidents and Congresses but also to state legislatures, school boards, county commissioners, and, just as importantly – voters.” 

Perkins, who was elected by the Louisiana GOP to serve as a delegate on the RNC Platform Committee, described the closed-off nature of the meeting as an “RNC Gag Rule” that “heightens speculation that the GOP platform will be watered down to a few pages of meaningless, poll-tested talking points.”

For weeks, pro-life activists have sought—and not received—private reassurances from the Trump campaign that core elements of the pro-life plank would not be changed. A memo signed by Trump advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles, reported by the New York Times on June 29, called for a condensed 2024 GOP platform “to ensure our policy commitments to the American people are clear, concise and easily digestible.” The memo defended closing off the platform committee process for the first time in decades to protect the process from “any special interest influence that seeks to make public policy stray from our clear and straightforward objectives.”

The private fight between the Trump campaign and pro-life leaders burst into public view in the past week. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement on Tuesday: “If the Trump campaign decides to remove national protections for the unborn in the GOP platform, it would be a miscalculation that would hurt party unity and destroy pro-life enthusiasm between now and the election.” 

What Does Turning Point Action Look for in a Candidate? 

“Do you love to win or hate to lose? Why?”

So asks Turning Point Action, the political arm of one of the leading conservative youth organizations, of Republican candidates seeking their endorsements. It’s the fifth of 20 questions on the group’s candidate questionnaire obtained by Dispatch Politics, which Turning Point claims provides “crucial criteria” in determining whether a candidate deserves its backing.

The group’s parent organization is Turning Point USA, whose founder Charlie Kirk has become an influential player in the GOP’s turn toward conservative populism and embrace of the MAGA movement. Kirk was among the chief antagonists to Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and was among the loudest voices encouraging former President Donald Trump to oust her earlier this year. Now, Turning Point USA is helping the RNC with voter turnout efforts in battleground states to boost Trump’s presidential campaign.

The Turning Point questionnaire provides a look at how the group is seeking to shape the party’s standard bearers down-ballot. Its questions reflect a standard, conservative litmus test for a would-be Republican officeholder and may indicate what the group is prioritizing in its endorsees.

Candidates seeking the endorsement are also asked to answer whether they are in favor of a socialist economic system.

“Do you agree with an economic system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned or regulated by the government and resources are distributed based on need?” reads one question.

Turning Point Action did not respond to an email that included a request to confirm the document’s authenticity; queries about how many candidates have asked for the group’s endorsement; and how many the organization has rejected based on their answers.

In addition to general character questions—such as whether a candidate has ever had a felony or misdemeanor conviction or filed for bankruptcy in the past 10 years—the form also asks why a candidate chose to jump into the race.

“If you were running and could only put Republican or Conservative on your yard sign, not both, which would you choose and why? Explain why you are running? What are your key values?” reads a question.

Also on the form is a direct question asking whether the candidate has taken money from corporate PACs amid some open-ended ones regarding how to reduce the deficit, ensure a secure border, and navigate the issue of abortion.

“What is your position on abortion, and how would you address the current debate surrounding abortion post-Roe V. Wade?”

One question asks a candidate when an immigrant should have the right to vote.

“Under what circumstances do you believe that immigrants should attain voting privileges in the United States? Do you believe that voting privileges should be different for federal elections from state and local elections?”

Notable and Quotable

“TOTAL EXONERATION! It is clear that the Supreme Court’s Brilliantly Written and Historic Decision ENDS all of Crooked Joe Biden’s Witch Hunts against me, including the WHITE HOUSE AND DOJ INSPIRED CIVIL HOAXES in New York. All of these Unfair Charges represent the WORST level of Election Interference ever seen in our Country’s long and storied History. It must be understood, that I was Totally and Completely Innocent from the beginning of this Giant and Highly Illegal Scam, long before the Supreme Court’s Decision was released. The impact of the Immunity Ruling is a loud and clear signal for Justice in the United States. I AM PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!”

—Former President Donald Trump in a Truth Social post about the Supreme Court’s presidential immunity ruling, July 2, 2024

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

John McCormack is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was Washington correspondent at National Review and a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. When John is not reporting on politics and policy, he is probably enjoying life with his wife in northern Virginia or having fun visiting family in Wisconsin.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

Grant Lefelar is an intern at The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company for the 2024 summer, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote for a student magazine, Carolina Review, and covered North Carolina state politics and news for Carolina Journal. When Grant is not reporting or helping with newsletters, he is probably rooting for his beloved Tar Heels, watching whatever’s on Turner Classic Movies, or wildly dancing alone to any song by Prefab Sprout.