Skip to content
The No Labels Super PAC Ramps Up
Go to my account

The No Labels Super PAC Ramps Up

Plus: Haley takes aim at Trump following E. Jean Carroll verdict.

Happy Monday! We’re not trying to turn this space into an obits page for unlucky NFL playoff teams, but man—you’ve got to feel for the Detroit Lions. When will Uncle Sam establish a social safety net for down-on-their-luck franchises and give us a Lions-Bills public-option Super Bowl?

Up to Speed

  • Senate negotiators have struck a deal on bipartisan border-security legislation, with legislative text likely to be released in the coming days. The package would include reforms to ease the backlog in processing asylum claims—a huge driver of what critics describe as an open U.S. border, since crossers who claim asylum can take years to process in immigration courts whether their claim is valid or not—as well as implementing a new emergency authority for the federal government to shut down the border altogether if a certain threshold of crossings is reached. But many GOP border hawks in the House, and former President Donald Trump, savaged the deal over the weekend: “There is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America,” Trump said at a Las Vegas rally Saturday. “I’ll fight it all the way.”
  • Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Republican Party adopted a resolution over the weekend to condemn Sen. James Lankford, one of the chief Republican negotiators of the compromise package. The resolution accused Lankford of “playing fast and loose with Democrats on our border policy” and putting “the safety and security of Americans in great danger.” The resolution also threatened to “cease all support for him” until Lankford “ceases from these actions.” Lankford scoffed off these critiques on Fox News Sunday: “Right now there’s internet rumors, is all that people are running on.” Lankford, easily reelected in 2022, is not scheduled to face the voters again until 2028.
  • A Manhattan jury on Friday awarded writer E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in her civil defamation case against former President Donald Trump, finding that Trump had maliciously damaged Carroll’s reputation since she accused him in 2019 of sexually assaulting her in a New York department store in 1996. A separate jury last year found Trump civilly liable of sexual assault and ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million in damages. Trump said he would appeal the ruling.

‘We’re Building’: No Labels Super PAC Preps for 2024 Battle

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)

The super PAC poised to support the No Labels White House ticket on the 2024 ballot is accelerating preparations as a rematch pitting President Joe Biden versus former President Donald Trump appears more likely.

The nonpartisan political nonprofit group No Labels is investing resources in ballot access for a potential unity presidential ticket, as well as for candidate identification and recruitment. Funding political activity to boost this possible ticket—which would likely feature a Republican at the top and a Democratic vice presidential running mate—falls to a recently launched super PAC, New Leaders 2024. The group is led by two Republican operatives: Rob Stutzman, based in Sacramento, California, and Kathleen Shanahan, based in Tampa, Florida.

In an interview with The Dispatch Thursday, Stutzman emphasized that the effort would only move forward in the event of a Biden-Trump rematch. But with Biden virtually a lock to win renomination and Trump on track to do the same, New Leaders 2024 is essentially proceeding as if that’s the case. “We’re building infrastructure,” Stutzman said. “We’re going to be like any other campaign.”

Stutzman and Shanahan are veteran Republican strategists. He was a top adviser to then-California Gov. Arnold Scharzenegger; she filled a similar role for then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Stutzman declined to reveal how much money the No Labels super PAC has raised since opening its doors. Stutzman was more forthcoming when asked to explain what, exactly, New Leaders 2024 plans to do with the money the super PAC plans to raise. 

Although not a perfect example, Stutzman said that Never Back Down—the super PAC that did much of the political legwork for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ since-suspended presidential campaign—is a good model for what New Leaders 2024 has planned. 

As such, the No Labels super PAC is planning to advertise and engage in other forms of political messaging, with a focus on targeting Americans in its voter file who it believes are receptive to a third-party unity ticket. (That includes in several states, No Labels claims, that are not considered typical presidential battlegrounds but that No Labels and New Leaders 2024 suggest would be in play should its effort move forward—for instance, Texas.) 

New Leaders 2024 also is planning to host campaign-style events. And, perhaps most importantly, New Leaders 2024 plans to begin assembling the sort of extensive political infrastructure that the Democratic and Republican nominees already have via their national parties, which in turn have muscular affiliates at the state, county, and precinct levels.

If No Labels fields candidates for president and vice president, matching the Democratic and Republican parties’ extensive, experienced, and robustly staffed voter turnout programs will be a challenge, especially with just a few months to go until early voting begins in some of the key battleground states. Even as Stutzman and Shanahan begin laying the foundation for all of this, they’re watching Nikki Haley as she continues to wage an uphill battle for the Republican presidential nomination against Trump.

“You’ll see more from us at such a time that Haley leaves the stage,” Stutzman said. “She may not leave the stage. This only works if it’s a Trump-Biden match. We’re watching Nikki and, frankly, rooting for her.”

“The case she continues to make [against Trump] really becomes our case to Republicans and independents,” he added.

‘I Absolutely Trust the Jury’

It sure looks like Nikki Haley is ready to start paying attention to Donald Trump’s legal troubles.

In an interview on NBC News’ Meet the Press Sunday morning, Haley was asked to comment on the verdict in writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit against Trump, which a jury handed down Friday. Last year, a separate jury had found Trump civilly liable of assaulting Carroll in 1996; last week,  jurors found that Trump had defamed Carroll by maintaining a steady diatribe against her ever since, at campaign events and in social media posts, and ordered him to pay her an eye-popping $83.3 million. Anchor Kristen Welker wanted to know: Did Haley trust the jury’s findings?

Under the old Haley playbook, this question would have called for evasive maneuvers. “I was not on the jury. I am not the judge,” she told CBS News last May in the wake of the first jury’s decision to hold Trump liable for assault. “I think that both of them had their voices heard. There has been a verdict and there has been an appeal.”

As recently as two weeks ago, Haley was operating in the same vein. “I haven’t paid attention to his cases, and I’m not a lawyer,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash the day after the Iowa caucuses. “All I know is that he’s innocent until proven guilty … If he’s found guilty, he’s gonna pay the price. If he’s not found guilty, then we move forward.”

Now, however? “I absolutely trust the jury,” Haley said Sunday. “And I think that they made their decision based on the evidence.”

The remarks are the clearest indication yet that while Haley still intends to tread lightly around Trump’s impending cases—she hasn’t adopted the total-war posture of an Adam Kinzinger or Liz Cheney—we can expect to hear more from her on the subject as juries get their teeth into them.

In her NBC News interview, Haley also reacted to our reporting from last week that the Republican National Committee had considered a resolution to declare Trump the party’s “presumptive” nominee, despite only two states having voted in the 2024 primary so far. (Trump came out against the resolution hours after we reported on its existence; its sponsor, Maryland RNC committeeman David Bossie, withdrew it from consideration shortly thereafter.)

The RNC has “clearly not” been an honest broker in the primary, Haley said.

“If you’re gonna go in and basically tell the American people that you’re gonna go and decide who the nominee is after only two states have voted—I mean, 48 states out there?” she said. “This is a democracy. The American people want to have their say in who is going to be their nominee. We need to give them that.”

Notable and Quotable 

“I need to show that I’m building momentum. I need to show that I’m stronger in South Carolina than New Hampshire. Does that have to be a win? I don’t think that necessarily has to be a win. But it certainly has to be better than what I did in New Hampshire, and it certainly has to be close.”

—Nikki Haley to NBC News on her expectations for next month’s South Carolina primary, January 28, 2024

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.