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S4 Ep4: Send This Podcast to Joe Lieberman (with Matt Bennett)

October 14, 2023
Notes
Transcript
A third-party group called No Labels might put Donald Trump back in the White House (whoops), and we have a label for that: dangerous. Matt Bennett of Third Way has been one of the leading voices against the No Labels effort. He joins Sarah to give listeners a rundown on No Labels’ plans and to hear which voters are picking up what they’re putting down.

show notes:

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/08/us/politics/biden-trump-third-parties-no-labels.html

https://www.thirdway.org/memo/how-no-labels-is-undermining-our-democracy

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:06

    Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Focus Group podcast. I’m Sarah Longwell, publisher of the Bulwark. And today, we are talking about no labels. For a while now, they’ve been talking about fielding a unity presidential ticket with a Democrat and a Republican on it, which sounds like the kind of thing that a never Trump centrist like me might find attractive. But cards on the table, I’m against the no labels gambit because I believe it will reelect Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:35

    After you listen to today’s episode, gonna understand why I believe that. My guest today is Matt Bennett. He’s one of the loudest voices opposing the no labels hail Mary. And he’s the executive vice president for public affairs at third way. Matt, thanks for being here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:52

    Thanks for having me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:53

    Okay. Quick. What’s third way? Tell people so they know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:57

    Third way is a center left think tank. We’re basically moderate Democrats. We are on the political spectrum pretty much aligned with Joe Biden. It’s a good way to think about us.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:06

    Yeah. And so people know you and I know each other as, like, me centrist Republican use centrist Democrat both opposed to Donald Trump or friends.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:16

    Exactly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:17

    So that’s third way. Now who has no labels the people behind it, what are they trying to do in twenty twenty four? And what do they claim as their theory of victory? Give us the top line.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:26

    No labels is a group that’s been around for about twelve years, I think. They were founded by a woman named Nancy Jacobson, who I’ve known forever. She came out of democratic politics. In fact, at one point, she was the executive director of the finance arm of the DNC. So she was a professional Democrat.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:44

    Her husband is Mark Penn, who is semi famous as upholster. He was upholstered to Bill Clinton and then for a while to Hillary Clinton before she fired him in two thousand eight. Nancy founded no labels to create a kind of cross partisan operation and her principal focus or the group’s principal focus has been on Congress. They helped create what is called the problem solvers caucus in Congress. It’s a kind of two by two operation where a Democrat and Republican joined together, And then the idea was that they could work across the aisle to find solutions to problems.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:18

    That has been, I would say, episotically successful. They’ve done some things that have been useful, few other things that are less useful. But for the most part, I think they weren’t doing any harm, certainly, and they were doing some good in Congress. However, about a year and a half ago, I guess, they decided that that wasn’t good enough for them, and they were gonna make an effort to get involved in presidential politics. Why they chose to do this I don’t know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:44

    We can talk about that if you like, but it is very unclear to me why they decided in the middle of Joe Biden’s presidency, a moderate centrist president who’d passed and signed seven bipartisan bills in the law and the other two that he signed was basically written by Joe Manchen, who says centrist. I don’t know why they decided to do this now, but they did. They’ve raised a bunch of money. The New York Times reported on Sunday that they have sixty million dollars just devoted to this third party presidential bid that they’re putting together. And they’re using most of that money at the moment to try to get on the ballot in as many states as they can.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:19

    They’re on in eleven states, including three ballot rounds, Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina, and they’re aggressively trying to get on in others. And their plan is to nominate what they call a unity ticket. That is one Republican and one Democrat to run as third party candidates in twenty twenty four, which we think is a catastrophically bad idea.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:40

    And who do they think would be at the top of the ticket? How’s their unity ticket work?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:44

    Well, it was unclear until very recently whether it would be a Democrat or a Republican at the top, but that became very clear in the New York Times story because apparently Nancy and others have been going around telling people that they feel like they need to put a Republican at the top of the ticket, which mean a democrat in the second position. Which, very interestingly, takes off the table for them, Senator Joe Manchin. There is no way that mansion would accept the the number two spot on the ticket So while he has been one of their main people that have, you know, been speculated about for their ticket, it now appears that he is not in the running. It’s gonna be some kind of Republican.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:23

    Alternatively, then, though, we could look at this gambit and say, alright. You were gonna put a Republican the ticket because you are trying to split the Republican vote and not elect Donald Trump. Why isn’t that helpful?
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:36

    Right. The theory that no labels is postulating is that by putting Republic on the top of the ticket, it mitigates the impact that we’ve been yelling about for the last eight months, which is that they’re going to hurt Biden and help Trump. The problem is that that isn’t true. Trump’s support, as you have said a million times, is very, very stable. His floor of his support really doesn’t move.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:02

    People don’t leave him However, Biden’s floor is very fluid. Biden has a lot of people who are soft supporters of his. And in a head to head race with Trump, they would support him because they cannot stomach the idea of Donald Trump as president, but they would like to find someone else. And if they are offered someone else, whether that is a centrist Democrat or a centrist Republican, they might take it. Not a whole ton of them will do it, but probably enough to actually swing the election to Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:32

    It’s kind of what we saw in twenty sixteen when there were these no name candidates running his third party is Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, who took away enough votes from Hillary Clinton in enough key states probably to swing the election to Trump, and the impact will probably be greater this time if no labels goes forward.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:50

    Yeah. I mean, look, for people who don’t know who’ve never heard me talk about this, the reason I started doing the focus groups way back in the beginning. Generally speaking, I was trying to understand these sort of soft Republicans, right leaning independents to figure out how to defeat Donald Trump. That to me going into twenty twenty was, you know, how do you beat him? And in twenty twenty two, we’ve continued.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:12

    And so I listened to tons of swing voters. I also listened to tons of two time trump voters, tons of Democrats, lots of different demographic cross sections, But if there’s one thing I understand, it is how you build not a pro Joe Biden coalition. That’s a different thing. It is how you build an anti trump coalition. And the people who make up the anti trump coalition are traditional Democrats, but they are also these soft GOP right leaning independents, and even some soft Democrats because without going through a whole thing, there’s been a lot political realignment where people who were kind of Obama voters or now Trump voters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:49

    So there’s like a lot going on in here, but the one thing I know The one thing I know is that the people that know labels is the most attractive to. He’s not Republicans who voted for Trump twice, And it is not Democrats who are gonna vote for Joe Biden. It is the people that I focus my work on, whether it was Republican voters against Trump in twenty twenty, Republican voters against Carrie Lake in twenty twenty two. It is these swing voters. These independents.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:18

    Those are the only people that know labels. Really attracts. And so I wanna sort of prove that point today, because for me, it is both an analytic matter, but also a strategic matter. And so if Trump is the nominee in twenty twenty four, I wanna be able to demonstrate today listening to these voters why it’s clear to me who would be attractive to him. So let’s start with what I believe is the no label’s natural audience, which we often call flippers on this show, but there are people who voted for Donald Trump in twenty sixteen, and then Joe Biden in twenty twenty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:50

    And a lot of these voters felt like they had to hold their nose and vote for Joe Biden back in twenty twenty. Let’s listen right now to their appetite for a third party going into twenty four.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:01

    I feel like our country runs the bad when you have three parties to choose from. It was based on a three party system, why is everything democrat and republican. Though in something else could give somebody else something to vote for.
  • Speaker 4
    0:08:12

    If we had a a moderate Republican and a moderate democrat as the top two at the ticket president and vice president, I think it would go a long way to pulling the moderates in the Senate and the House of Representatives together and weeding out the extremism on both parties.
  • Speaker 5
    0:08:33

    And I think that if you provide Americans with a good opportunity for change that we could do it. We could definitely do it. I think speaking to the young generation, getting them excited. They’re the ones that want change. It’s super important.
  • Speaker 6
    0:08:54

    I guess because the country is a bell curve. Right? Left here, right here, most people are dead in the center, and I think everybody here is just dead in the center. And I I think, yeah, if if you get a balance to give us somebody a little slightly right, a little slightly left? Yeah.
  • Speaker 6
    0:09:10

    Absolutely. I’d give a shot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:12

    Alright. So I think that last guy demonstrates an important point. The main conceit of the no label’s effort is that there’s a broad middle of the country that are clamoring for some brand of centrism. It’s clear their donors have internalized that, and that some of these voters have too. But when we ask some of our flipper groups in recent months to choose between Trump and Biden.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:35

    K? Our groups have broken, twenty for Biden, five for Trump, which, by the way, is already a little bit alarming that you see that much backsliding. Right? It’s not a ton, but Joe Biden needs absolutely every boat. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:49

    Now when we’ve given those people the option to switch, thrown no labels in there. Twelve people, almost half switched the no labels ticket. Three of those people, were Trump voters, so they left Trump. So now Trump’s getting two. But nine of them left Biden.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:08

    Nine of them left Biden. And so Imagine Trump isn’t in the picture. And I know you might not want a third party, but, like, what could a successful third party be like, and why isn’t no labels it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:21

    Look, I think that Trump earned in the picture, the downside risk obviously would be completely different. For me, I wouldn’t like to see, you know, Mitt Romney become president because I’m a Democrat, but I wouldn’t be panicking about the situation. It would be a very different calculus for all of us looking at a potential spoiler for somebody who stays within the lines and not for somebody who could destroy our democracy So that’s really what’s driving the panic on the democratic and the number of Trump side. In terms of how you would do a third party well, I think you really need to start with the legislative level. What I don’t understand about no label strategy is they have pretty good reach into Congress.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:05

    Not only do they have the problem solvers in the house. They have allies in the Senate, and they could have created factions in both House and Senate demanding more centrist governance. And look, I mean, There’s a real need for that right now. I mean, we don’t have a speaker of the house at the moment as we record this at least, and the senate is very evenly divided and not always particularly functional. So I think a good third party would be one that tried to create a faction in both chambers that truly did what the problem solvers said they were going to do, which was sad to both sides.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:41

    Listen, we will support you as long as you are doing things that we regard as sensible and moderate. But running a third party presidential candidate is a bad idea for a variety of reasons, not least, is that there’s absolutely zero possibility of success. I mean, remember, no one has ever come close to winning as a third party candidate. And the last person to win a single electoral vote as a third party candidate was George Wallace who’s running as a racist.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:11

    Yeah. He was a great guy, as I recall.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:13

    Yeah. Fantastic. And before that was Strong Thurman, also running as a racist. So not a great history to build your platformer.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:21

    I had Andrew Yang on the show one time. We talked about third parties. There are scenarios in which you could talk me into sort of playing the Fantasy third party thing where I would be sufficiently aggravated with both choices, but also not convinced that either choice that I was annoyed with so dangerous that you had to build a coalition. So, like, the thing that I don’t understand about no labels is when did they decide that Joe Biden was a wild eyed progressive radical. I’m not saying you gotta love Joe Biden’s policy I don’t love all Joe Biden’s policies.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:55

    I think some of them are bad, which goes to a second annoyance of mine, which is that by making this case, that Joe Biden and Donald Trump, are both so terrible that you must run this third party unity ticket. You essentially create a parity narrative, a both sides as though these two men are the equivalent danger that one is old and the other one did a coup and therefore same. And so, like, Matt, why are they doing this?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:22

    I wish I knew. First, let me just underscore your point about the false equivalent narrative coming out in mill labels, it is appalling. And, you know, they’ve got supporters like former governor Larry Hogan, who’s a very close supporter of theirs, somebody that may actually lead their ticket if they go forward with this. He said on television, well, I mean, both Biden and Trump are facing legal difficulties. I mean, really, one of them faces ninety one felony counts.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:51

    The other one faces zero. And is going to phase zero. So it’s that kind of malarkey that comes out in a label that’s unbelievably irritating. Why they are doing this, I honestly do not know, and we have been careful not to speculate about that. I will say that they have said over and over that they do not want to help reelect trump, and I take them at their word that they don’t want that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:17

    The problem is is they go forward that is precisely what is going to happen for the reasons that we’ve been discussing. And their immunity to all logic around this is remarkable. I mean, let me just give you one example. They have put out one poll that tested the only thing that matters here in pulling, which is the three way horse race. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:38

    This was last December. So it was a long time ago. But their poll show what every single other poll has shown, which is basically the head to head between Biden Trump is tied give or take a point or two. But when you add a third party candidate and and in their call, they tested an unnamed moderate independent, that candidate gets twenty percent of the vote. The people you were just talking about, peel away and go to them, and Trump wins.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:04

    That is exactly what we keep saying. And we keep saying to them, don’t take our word for it. Take your word for it. This is what would happen and yet they somehow just are barreling forward.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:15

    Do take my word for it. I know so little about so many things, but the one thing I know quite a bit about is these centrist swing voters. And the thing is because they are somewhat center right in orientation, they are more susceptible to the idea that Joe Biden is like more far left than they would like him to be. Right? Like, they don’t agree with him on many of his policies.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:41

    They just don’t. They also, like, don’t consider themselves Democrats. So it’s always a little uncomfortable to vote for a Democrat, which is why all of the projects I build are about building these little micro tribes, like Republican voters against Trump. There’s a reason it’s not called Republican voters for Biden. Because they don’t feel for Biden.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:00

    They feel against Trump, and they are willing to vote against Trump. And, you know, in twenty twenty, they understood that meant for Biden. In this case, though, those people, you give them that out. You give them that place to go. That feels more in line with who they are, and they’ll take it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:18

    But, Matt, here’s the thing. No labels would argue. Why isn’t that fair? Why isn’t that fair to give them that choice? I mean Isn’t that democracy?
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:29

    On one level, of course, it is. Sure. They can give them the choice. And they keep saying that people like me are trying to stop them from getting on the ballot and stop them from finding that truth. That just isn’t true.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:42

    What people like me are saying is this is very, very dangerous. Please do not do this. If you are a candidate, don’t run on their ticket. If you’re a donor, don’t give them money. And if you’re in a label, stop because what you’re gonna do is reelect trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:56

    And The key here is that what they are not offering is a genuine choice. What they’re offering is an illusion. They are telling people, their own supporters, and eventually, perhaps, voters, that they could actually win the election, that their third party candidate is gonna win Now in all of American history, that has only been the case twice where a third party candidate said, I’m in it to win for real. The first time was Teddy Roosevelt, who had left office four years prior as one of the most popular presidents in American history, fifteen years later, they would carve him into Mount Rushmore. He tried to run his third party candidate pretty credible.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:35

    He won some electoral votes, but lost in a landslide to Woodrow Wilson and served as a spoiler for his own party. Then in nineteen ninety two, Ross Perot ran as a third party candidate. At one point was leading both Bush and Clinton, he ends up with zero electoral votes. So both of those guys said, I think I can win the election. No one else has said that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:55

    Wallace didn’t say it. Jill Stein didn’t say it. I mean, Ralph Nader didn’t say when he spoiled the election in two thousand and helped elect Bush. But these guys are saying we’re gonna win, and so voters like the ones that you focus on are given this line about how they can vote for this third party candidate and not throw their vote away, they could actually win. And that’s just not true.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:15

    There is no chance of that happening.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:19

    Okay. But I do have good news for you. Matt Bennett, which is that there is a lot of these flippers who actually already kind of understand what going on with no labels, and we’re able to articulate it when we brought it up. Let’s listen.
  • Speaker 4
    0:18:32

    Have you heard that they’re funded by, Harlyn Crow? And other mega donors that donate to the Republican Party and that this is a way to skim votes off of Biden to throw the election to Trump. I love the idea of a third party candidate, a viable one, but I don’t think this is a legitimate third party
  • Speaker 7
    0:18:53

    I’m similar. I would like a third party option, but a legitimate one. Not it’s kinda shadowy stuff.
  • Speaker 8
    0:18:59

    There are no moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans right now. Their party lines, and that’s how they vote. A third party right now could not win an election, and I don’t want anything to potentially pull voters away from a democratic candidate, which I don’t want. I think right now, Biden can be Trump. He’s done it before.
  • Speaker 8
    0:19:19

    I think he’ll do it again. And I wouldn’t want a third party representative in their point votes away.
  • Speaker 4
    0:19:24

    I don’t think it’s ever gonna get off the ground. I think people are just one way or another. And like somebody said before, it’s like wasting a vote. Usually, those are the best people, but I can’t imagine in my lifetime,
  • Speaker 9
    0:19:38

    it’s gonna happen. The problem with my experience with third parties, not just in, like, presidential elections, but in elections at lower offices is they sabotage one of the candidates in one way or another. So I think sometimes they can have an unintended ill effect.
  • Speaker 10
    0:19:56

    It’s a spoiler, and I think it would just get trump elected. Or improve the chances of him being elected because people who are for Trump will be for Trump no matter what. Biden supporters, you know, some are pretty dedicated and but a bunch are, like, you know, whatever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:16

    Now let me throw a little twist at you. Those people understood the spoiler effect, but one of them still switched to no labels. And it freaks me out when people actually clearly understand the dynamic but they’re still willing to do it. And I think this comes from and I I wonder if you agree with this. Part of the problem is that There’s people who, like, they don’t like Trump, but they don’t view him as the threat that you and I view him as.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:41

    Right? Like, we see him as This is overused, but existential. Right? Like a genuine threat to democracy, a second term of Trump brings with it some of the darkest aspirations. And this is just, like, not the time to roll the dice on your fantasy third party ticket.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:00

    But what do we do about the fact that a lot of voters, they don’t like Trump, but because they don’t see him that way, they’re like, well, I’m gonna vote for these people I like because there’s, you know, a better choice.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:10

    Yeah. I mean, that’s the real question. And I think the other voters, once you did not switch despite, you know, having those views, I do think they represent probably a majority of the people who pollsters would call the double haters, people that don’t like either Trump or Biden. Majority of those people are probably gonna hold their nose again and vote for Biden. Thank goodness.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:31

    However, it doesn’t take much It doesn’t take many of the people that you work on to peel away to actually swing the election. I mean, Georgia and Arizona in twenty twenty were both sided by less than half of a percentage point. It is a tiny point three percent in Arizona. Yeah. Point three and point two.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:50

    And so you just don’t need to move many of these people to really have an impact on the outcome. So in terms of what do we tell them We don’t know that yet. Our campaign has been aimed so far at political insiders, mostly at, potential candidates and donors to no labels to try to get them to back off of this. But eventually, if they do go forward, and they have planned a convention for Dallas in April, where they’re purportedly gonna nominate somebody. If they do that and they’re, you know, gonna have people on the ticket, we’re gonna have to run.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:26

    We, the entire anti trump coalition is gonna have to run a massive campaign aimed at those people that says, a vote for ex, John Huntman, or whomever it is, is a vote for Trump. And that’s exactly what it will be, and and we’re just gonna have to run that persuasion effort, but it’s gonna be massively expensive and difficult because to your point is you’re not people that are eager to vote for Joe Biden. They would like a third option, and it’s gonna be hard to move them off of that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:54

    Yeah. And let me just tell you, like, I have a vested strategic interest in this. Like, I think I’ve been clear about that, but I’ll be doubly clear so that you understand that in this particular case, I’m not an impartial observer. If no labels is there, it, like, changes the work that I have to do because instead of focusing on pulling together that anti trump coalition, you have to specifically educate people about no labels and what it’s doing and the fact that it would reelect Trump to help people understand why they shouldn’t ditch out to a third party effort. And that’s just a much harder thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:29

    Now the good news is of that is that there’s kinda two kinds of these double doubter swing voters. One of them is high info. You can persuade them, right, be and they consume a lot of information. The other group is super low info, and they’re kind of the epoxy on both their houses folks. And so it’s already gonna be harder than it was in twenty twenty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:50

    But now we’ve got this, like, other things standing in our way. And we’ve been talking to the focus groups and kinda testing their theory out, one of the things we’ve been doing is introducing the names. Right? Because I think one of the goofiest things about no labels is how oftentimes they do their polling, and they’ll be like, see, twenty eight percent want this nameless, faceless set of candidates against you Joe Biden and Trump. And you’re like, okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:17

    Well, right now everybody’s projecting their hopes and dreams onto those people. What happens when you actually give them a name? And they have to be like, do I wanna vote for Joe Manchin? Do I wanna vote for John Huntsman? Who is Larry Hogan.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:29

    I’ve never heard of him. So let’s listen to how some of the people talked when we gave them names to shoot at.
  • Speaker 11
    0:24:36

    Because is that the dude who was from West Virginia who was holding up the the proceedings before?
  • Speaker 12
    0:24:42

    Yep.
  • Speaker 11
    0:24:43

    Oh, no. Yes. So I’m talking about Democrats republic nod. That’s not great. Like you said, you need a younger person that’s not entrenched in the thoughts?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:53

    He held everything up. And I don’t know if it was the power move he thought I don’t know if it was going in his head. Like, he held held cars or something. I don’t know, but, no, it was just a note for me.
  • Speaker 12
    0:25:06

    I just felt like He claims he wants to help the people of Virginia. But what he was doing is completely opposite of that. He is not helping them at all. He’s just continuing to keep them pushed down in poverty, and it’s just depressing.
  • Speaker 10
    0:25:22

    I think it’s just He’s in it for himself and his financial supporters, and that’s it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:28

    Did I honestly have no idea who those people are.
  • Speaker 13
    0:25:30

    I don’t think either of them are particularly popular in their own parties right now. I don’t think that winning their own state is not gonna be able to carry them to a larger electoral victory.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:41

    First Hogan, I just think if you’re a Republican and you can get two terms in Sarah Longwell know, you’re doing something right. But you know what? The Republican Party as it is today, Hogan would be like my kind of Republican, but he wouldn’t win today because The man got crowd would chew them up. I mean, they wouldn’t even think about them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:04

    People who listen to this podcast know I love me some Larry Hogan. I really do. But here’s the thing about this JBL calls him St. Larry disparagingly to make fun of me. The thing about Larry Hogan is that he didn’t run-in the Republican primary, specifically because he couldn’t get enough percentage of Republicans in that primary.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:25

    I understand why one enjoys being vetted by the donor class and having a bunch of people on the news, asking you all the time if you’re gonna run for president as a third party option. And it gives you the opportunity to say a thing that I know he believes is true and, you know, that these These aren’t the best options, and it feels like we could do better. And listen. All things being equal, I’d vote for Larry Hogan before I’d vote for ninety nine percent of other people. But there’s no way that he doesn’t understand that there’s not a majority coalition that would vote for this centrist ticket.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:05

    And so this is the thing you have not talked about this personally. Like, I want you to talk me out of it now publicly, which is I just sort of feel like when push comes to shove, these guys aren’t gonna pull the trigger on this. Because it’s so abundantly clear. Like, you do the focus groups. You do the polling.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:21

    If you do real polling, not funded by Mark Penn polling, you know that, like, this isn’t gonna happen, but you think they might pull the trigger still why?
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:32

    Because that’s what they’re saying. I mean, all I can tell you is what they are saying. And what Nancy Jacobson and others have said is if the nominees of the major parties look like they’re gonna be Biden and Trump, and they’re gonna be testing that in March after Super Tuesday for the Republicans. Then their their plan is to go forward. Now, of course, that can always change.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:54

    And we passionately hope that it does. But at the moment, they are full speed ahead. They are continuing to fundraise aggressively. They’re continuing to try to get on balance aggressively. And one of the scariest things they’ve said, because they’re not complete idiots, they know that they’re not gonna win two hundred and seventy electoral votes, despite having actually put out a laugh out loud level electoral map showing their path to two seventy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:20

    What they get that that’s not happening But one of the really scary things they’ve said and they’ve said it on television is that one of their goals is to win a state or two deny either party two hundred and seventy electoral votes and thereby throw the outcome of the presidential election to the House of Representatives, which would vote by delegation and thereby elect Trump. And somehow they think they can game concessions out of one or both of the candidates if they do that. So they had this very bizarre and terrifying theory about creating a contingent election. That may be the reason that they go forward despite understanding that there’s zero possibility that they can win it outright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:07

    I don’t know whether they do this or not, but I presume that Joe Biden’s age is obviously the thing that people are the most concerned about, which then begs the question. About his vice president, because I’ve heard them describe it as an insurance policy, right, an insurance policy for two extreme candidates And they’ve shown in those things pictures of Trump. They’ve shown pictures of Kamala. They have not shown pictures of Joe Biden because Right. I don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:34

    He’s the president, and he’s, like, relatively normal if a mainstream Democrat. Do you think they’re really feeding off of concerned that Kamala could be the nominee. And if so, does that change your view of what they’re doing at all?
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:47

    It changes my view of what they’re doing not at all. I do think that is precisely what they have been saying, particularly to right leaning donors. They tend to tailor their message to the audience that they’re speaking to. And what you were referring to is a video they put out early in this process where they had all these scary pictures of AOC and Bernie and Harris about how the Democratic party was going off a cliff, and they did not have a picture of the person who was in charge of the Democratic party and the country, which was a weird editing choice.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:20

    Weird omission. Yep. Strange omission.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:22

    Indeed. But but clearly what they’re saying to people is look. Joe Biden is not in charge now. He’s being led around by the nose by these lefty nutcases and, you know, Harris is probably gonna be present. And that is both factually untrue, Joe Biden is very much in charge of this government now, very capable physically of running for president, and it’s also gives you some insight into their thinking about how tough it is to make the case that Joe Biden is not a moderate, a unity president who has basically governed from the center.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:57

    Yeah. And also this thing about throwing it to the house, which is currently the world’s most undeliberative body, world’s most absolutely off the rails, irresponsible, not to be trusted with anything.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:11

    Mean, what could possibly go wrong?
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:13

    What could possibly go wrong? Yeah. Yeah. So I just wanted this is just like a fun question, actually, but, like, is there any fantasy ticket that could win? Like Oprah and the dalai lama, like who who could if they jumped in really get it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:34

    They are actually thinking about we know that they’ve tried to make contact with the rock, the actor, the rock.
  • Speaker 10
    0:31:41

    The rock.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:42

    So they’re they’re working on the exact kind of fantasy ticket that you are postulating. I can’t think of one. I mean, I guess Oprah and somebody would probably be their best bet, but in this moment in our culture, I can’t think of anyone who is so dramatically unifying that they could win an election, even if we were casting the net as wide as possible to every living human who I guess, was born in the United States and over the age of thirty five. Even if you give them their ultimate fantasy ticket that ticket does not win two hundred and seventy electoral votes. Our system just isn’t set up to do it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:26

    I mean, go back to Teddy Roosevelt. I was readily popular unbelievably popular when he left office. And he was still in the arena four years later, and he got annihilated in the general election.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:40

    Yeah. I mean, one of the things that’s funny you mentioned the rock, because I do think there is almost bipartisan wishcasting for like, I actually was at this thing. Rain Wilson was there, the guy who played Dwight on the office. And he and I, like, ended up on some panel together. And he was kinda, like, few people who do politics for a living.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:03

    It’s so dumb, and we should spend zero dollars on politics. And, like, we should elect our president by everybody should write down the name on, like, a piece of paper and, like, of who they want. He’s like, who do you think would win then? And I was like, Oprah? And he was like, well, she’d make a great president.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:21

    And I was like, yeah, but she’s not actually running for president. Number one, and you can’t, like, conscript people into service. Number two, Like, would she make a great president? Where does this idea come from that, like, cool. So the rock I love the rock.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:35

    Rock was a good wrestler, which I didn’t watch, but I know that He had a fun slogan about cooking, and he was great in moana. What about that qualifies him? To be president. Like, I understand Joe Biden’s old, but this, like, weird thing that’s going on right now in our culture where we just want some random celebrity to govern us. Where’s that coming from?
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:57

    It’s a mystery to me, for those Bulwark in politics, why everyone thinks that they can do our job better than we can do. I understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion about politics, of course, that this is a democracy, but what he said to you is the equivalent of you saying, you know what? I think I should write the office because I’m pretty funny and I’m smart and I feel like I engage in witty repartee a lot, and I I should write the office. That is ridiculous. Being president is incredibly hard.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:29

    We just ran an experiment where we put someone in that job who had no qualifications for it whatsoever, and they were really, really bad at it. Partially because of their own, you know, limitations, but also because they simply weren’t prepared to do the job. I would argue, say what you will about Joe Biden’s policies. No one’s ever been more prepared to be present, and that has shown in some very important ways, including this week in responding to the crisis of the Middle East and certainly with Ukraine, and in managing Congress, the guy managed to get seven really nine major bills through a Congress with zero majority in the Senate and a four seat majority. In the house.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:11

    That is impressive, and that’s because he knew what he was doing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:16

    The extent to which governing as a value proposition has diminished in the eyes of the American public, and we just wanna, like, live on vibes. There is something, you know, as we’re recording this you know, we’re a couple days into this incredibly catastrophic, terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel, And it’s such a reminder to me that’s in the starkest terms of why serious people doing the serious job of governing is so important. You do not want Hucksters and Charlie Sykes and, like, random celebrities, even if they’re super nice people, to be put in the position of deciding whether or not, not that we’re gonna go to war with Iran, but, like, these are the times when you need people who have been there before, we’re living in a very dangerous world at a very dangerous time. And so I just would like people to be, like, ten percent more serious than they’re being.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:13

    Yeah. I mean, there’s a guy that was a football coach three years ago. Who is holding up the appointment of military officers in the United States Senate and what that has meant among many other things. Is that the highest ranking military officer in our embassy in Israel is a colonel because the person who’s supposed to be there, a general cannot get confirmed. And that kind of matters right now when we have carrier groups repositioning in the Mediterranean.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:44

    So It’s a serious job and people who come to it with no experience do not take it seriously enough.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:53

    Yeah. Tuberville. Great. He’s doing great. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:56

    So I wanna go back to some of this. Actually, I don’t know if it’s good news. What it is is evidence of the fact that no labels cannot field a winning ticket. And that is because of how dug in political partisans are, And so we did a bunch of recent groups with what I would call low enthusiasm Democrats. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:16

    So your people who are like, receptive to a third party in the abstract. And when you you ask about, like, great Joe Biden, these are people who are giving him c’s and d’s. But when we asked them how they would vote between Trump Biden and this no labels ticket, And then we even threw in Cornell West and JFK Junior. Oh, sorry. RfK Junior, RfK Junior.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:42

    You’re not one of those conspiracy people that think these
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:44

    so much. No. No. No. Sorry.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:45

    He’s dead. He’s really dead, guys. He’s he’s not there. Sorry. R f k junior, running as an independent newly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:53

    Still a clean sweep for Biden because these are partisan Democrats who understand what happens and aren’t gonna vote for an independent candidate. Are they not that happy with their choices? Are they down on Biden? All true. Are they gonna vote for Biden against all other people?
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:11

    They are. They are. Let’s listen to how these Democrats moved off voting for a third party effort.
  • Speaker 5
    0:38:20

    I just wouldn’t want to to split the vote to where Trump was the president again.
  • Speaker 4
    0:38:26

    I think Biden would be a safe zone for people because we know what he has done. We know he’s not gonna get us too rowdy. This third person, you almost have to I I can’t vouch for you. You know?
  • Speaker 14
    0:38:39

    I think it has to be a viable candidate because If it’s not somebody who really is viable and can win the election, it’s a vote for Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:47

    I just don’t want Trump back in office at all. So whatever it takes, If I have to go by you, that’s who I’m going with.
  • Speaker 7
    0:38:54

    I need to be convinced that sending my foot somewhere else actually has a chance as opposed to taking it away from Democrats and then all of a sudden it’s stronger power to who I voted against you with.
  • Speaker 11
    0:39:05

    Yeah. That third party, their strongest message can be. I’m not the other two parties. Like, they have all the better message than that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:12

    So this is something I’ve heard in a bunch of the last democratic groups I’ve done, including some in person groups up in Pennsylvania. I don’t think that most people have clocked yet. That Joe Biden is gonna be the nominee and that Trump is gonna be the nominee, especially people who don’t pay attention to politics all the time, which, by the way, most people who just live their lives and exist, they’re like, well, maybe I don’t know if it’ll be Joe Biden. Maybe somebody else will still come in. K.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:42

    Nope. Gonna be Biden. But they also don’t know that it’s gonna be Trump. And the second that you tell them, if it’s Biden or Trump, people who are super low enthusiasm on Biden, go, oh, well, I’ll vote. Aviana got voting against Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:57

    Do not do anything that reelects Trump. Because they hate Trump. Because again, this is an anti trump coalition you’re talking about. He is a turnout mechanism for Democrats, he’s an enthusiasm mechanism democrats, and this is the reason that Joe Biden goes around saying, don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative because he looks pretty freaking good compared to Donald Trump as the alternative. So that’s not really a question for you, Matt, but what do you think about the ranch that I just gave?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:23

    I mean, I couldn’t agree more, and I think You’re exactly right. People just haven’t come round to the conclusion that people like you and I have already drawn, which is our candidates are known. We know who the two major party nominees are going to be. And once you tell even soft partisans that, then then they stay home. But the The problem, of course, is the people we’ve been discussing, and those are the people at the margins here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:50

    I mean, the numbers that keep me up at night are the ones comparing twenty sixteen to twenty twenty in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, the three blue wall states that collapsed in twenty sixteen and elected Trump and that came back to us in twenty twenty. In all three of those states, Trump won them in twenty sixteen, lost them in twenty twenty. But in all three, His share of the vote rose between twenty sixteen and twenty twenty for the obvious reason that there were not credible third party candidates on the ballot and those third party votes were distributed between him and Biden and Biden’s share rose more relative to Clinton than Trump’s did, which is as clear evidence as you could possibly get that this tiny percentage of people, not the soft partisans we deferred from, but the but the folks we heard from earlier, they could be persuaded to chase a unicorn if one is available to them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:44

    Do you think though And this really is the question I should have asked coming off of that, which is as Trump comes back into the public consciousness. Right? Like, when it becomes clear, trump’s the nominee, don’t you think people start to see, like, oh, no. I can’t reelect this guy? I guess I’m, like, what point does that become clear to voters and voters make it clear to no labels, I got no interest in you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:08

    I don’t know. I mean, we have been screaming that as loudly to your earlier point as we possibly could along with a bunch of others, you know, Crystal and others will work and plenty of folks on the progressive side as well have been saying, what about this isn’t clear to you that if you do this, you couldn’t reelect Trump, but somehow they’re immune from that. And and the most remarkable person involved in this entire thing is Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman is a founding chair of no labels. He is all in on this idea.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:43

    He does not appear interested in running on their ticket, but he is definitely a huge proponent. He goes on television all the time to talk about it. Joe Liebermann would have been vice president of the United States, but for Ralph Mader, the third party candidate who ran in two thousand. Af major got ninety seven thousand votes in the state of Florida. The state that Warren Viberman lost by five hundred and thirty seven votes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:08

    So here’s a guy whose career was derailed by a third party who is somehow, nevertheless entranced by the idea that this third party can succeed.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:18

    If anyone knows Joe Lieberman, I need you to send him this podcast because I need him to hear what these voters are saying so that he understands because I do think there’s a problem Like, Joe Lieberman believes this is the part that I understand about no labels. Joe Lieberman believes in his heart in centrism and in having these, like, moderate candidates and that the parties have gotten too extreme. And, like, I’m with him on a fair amount of this stuff. I think they’re in this echo chamber, right, with donors, and other people like them, and, like, they haven’t listened to a regular voter in a super duper long time. Like, these no labels donor types, not sure they’ve talked to, like, an average person from central Pennsylvania in a minute.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:04

    And so I I need them to hear in these voters how they’re thinking about this so they can break out of their own sort of, fantasy. But I actually wanna get to I wanna get to one last thing here before we wrap. We’ve already talked about this a little bit there’s one more third party candidate who could be, like, the bizarre mirror image of no labels, Robert f Kennedy, not JFK junior. He was running as a Democrat, but he just announced that he’s gonna run-in the general election as an independent. And there’s a bit of a freak out on the Maggit influencer, like, Twitter circles and stuff about this, because RFK was sort of abandoned manifestation to primary Biden, and his natural constituency was like Trump voters, like Trump people, because he’s an anti vaccine conspiracy laden lunatic.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:53

    And so now suddenly, trump voters they liked it when he was primary Biden. Do not like it when he is running as an independent candidate because they think he could pull from Trump. So I wanna play some of what two time Trump voters have said about RfK doesn’t mean they’ll vote for him necessarily, but is super interesting. Let’s listen.
  • Speaker 12
    0:45:11

    You mean, the good looking guy that all the women in America’s gonna fall in love with?
  • Speaker 15
    0:45:16

    I mean, I think the one thing is he’s not afraid to call up big pharma. And, you know, everybody says he’s an anti vaxxer, but I think it’s not that. You know, he’s vaccinated all his kid, but it’s more about you had when he was a kid, there were three vaccines you got as a little baby. And now there’s, like, sixty or something like that, and it’s just like a money making machine, and they don’t do pre licensure safety studies on this stuff, and that’s what he’s complaining about.
  • Speaker 16
    0:45:41

    I like his anti vaccine stance and some of the stuff. I like listening to him, but, I mean, again, I’d probably have to do a bit more research because also it seems a bit more ingrained in the political society than I prefer.
  • Speaker 12
    0:45:55

    Would agree with that too, but he he is in favor of pulling back or maybe supporting Ukraine differently than the way that we are. I do like some of the stuff that he has to say.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:06

    I mean, there’s an anti vax vote out there on the right, and he’s seen to be, getting people a little, you know, r f k curious. So there was this Reuters poll a couple weeks ago that showed r f k pulling fourteen percent of the vote Biden’s numbers fell four points. Trump’s only fell two. So it’s not really clear yet which candidate gets more hurt by r f k. But what do you think about RFP getting rid?
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:28

    Is he, like, counterbalance it if if no labels is in there?
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:32

    I don’t think so. First, I have to say don’t believe what you just heard about vaccines. That was all wrong. And the second thing is live your life in such a way that your family does not put out press releases saying they hate you when you do something publicly, which is what happened with RFP Junior. And the reason they did that wasn’t because they’re worried he’s gonna hurt Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:53

    I can guarantee you that. The reason that his siblings put that statement out is they share my worry that anything that divides the anti trump coalition is bad. And to your point, we don’t know exactly how it’ll cut. Of course, there could be some weirdo anti vaxxers who go for him because he’s even more anti vaxx than Trump, and there could be some far left freaks that do it too. But what I worry about most are the super low information voters who don’t like Trump or Biden see the name Kennedy think That’s credible and interesting.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:26

    I’ll go for him. And again, this is a game of inches. It doesn’t take many of those people, and I I think that could hurt.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:32

    This one woman who said, like, he seems a bit more ingrained in the political society than I prefer. It codes. Right? It codes for people who don’t know that much about it. Like, as Kennedy, and I do think to the extent that he’s been pulling against Biden at all, right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:47

    He’s he has been pulling in the teens or whatever. Maybe maybe he’s cracked twenty here or there. Those are either low info dams who just see the name Kennedy or people who are just pissed off about Biden and they were like, I wanna put my number down for somebody else. So, like, listen, I agree with you and I just wanna say that just say no to no labels, Just say no to third parties. You never know which way the ball is gonna bounce.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:14

    I will be there for you your third party experiment back when we have normal non existential threat candidates on either side, and I feel comfortable take it a swing for somebody, who’s more aligned with my politics. Now ain’t the time. We’re gonna see a really serious way now is not the time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:33

    Yes. And I think the fact that you and I are having this conversation and you and I are so foursquare opposed to this is pretty instructive because you noted, like, you are center right. I am center left. If anyone’s going to support this kind of thing, it should be us, but both of us live in terror that this is gonna help reelect Trump, which would be beyond catastrophic. So amen to that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:58

    This is not the time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:00

    Matt Bennett. Thank you for joining us, and thank you to all of you for listening to the Focus Secret Podcast. We’ll be back next week for a deeper dive on all these Trump to Biden voters. Remember to rate, review, and subscribe. See you guys.
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