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November 13, 2014 03:20 PM UTC

"No Labels" Completes Transition To GOP Front Group

  • by: Colorado Pols
Mark McKinnon, former Bush advisor and No Labels cofounder.
Mark McKinnon, former Bush advisor and No Labels cofounder.

National Journal reports on a notable development in the aftermath of Republican Cory Gardner's narrow defeat of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall–a "nonpartisan" nonprofit group based in Washington D.C. named No Labels, formed by former George W. Bush advisor Mark McKinnon, stoked controversy earlier this year when Gardner touted their "endorsement"–which the group speedily walked back claiming they don't endorse candidates, or in fact endorsed anyone who agreed to support their "Problem Solver" agenda (it was a little unclear). It was later reported that this episode caused a major rift within the No Labels organization.

Well, as National Journal's Alex Brown reports, that rift has been "healed" by the resignation of No Labels' Democratic co-chair, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. After dozens of No Labels t-shirts were seen dotting the crowd at Gardner's victory party on Election Night, it would have been hard for Manchin not to resign:

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin stepped down Friday as one of the group's honorary cochairs, a move prompted by No Labels' backing of Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in his victory over Sen. Mark Udall. "He was upset by the decision to be active against a very moderate member of the Senate who had worked in a bipartisan way and had a track record of doing so," said a source familiar with Manchin's thinking…

"They have adopted a label, and the label starts with an 'R,' " said a Democratic strategist allied with Manchin. The strategist cited the group's backing of Gardner—and the staffers it sent to help his election—as a stick in the eye of Senate Democrats.

"They were picking a tea-party Republican over an avowed centrist," he said. "They backed the precisely wrong guy in the precisely wrong race, and they did it in a way that seemed to be intentionally provocative. They were wading into the backyard of [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet of Colorado], into the most closely watched, hotly contested race of the cycle against a moderate. There wasn't anything that they could have done in this cycle that would have been more provocative to Democrats than that…"

"When they sent … paid field staffers into Colorado and made it clear that they weren't just giving Gardner a seal of approval, they were endorsing him and working to elect him, that was an incredible betrayal not just of Manchin but of everyone that they've worked with in Democratic politics," said the Democratic strategist. "You will not see a single Democratic Senate office working with No Labels again." [Pols emphasis]

John McCain, Joe Lieberman.
John McCain, Joe Lieberman.

With Sen. Manchin out, who do you suppose is taking over the "Democratic" co-chairmanship of No Labels? Get ready to laugh.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is stepping into the position vacated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) at the centrist group No Labels…

“I’m delighted to be joining No Labels at this critical time,” Lieberman said. “We are getting closer, as a nation, to healing our divisions and working together, but we have a long way to go. The 2016 presidential elections are a great opportunity to focus on problem-solving, and No Labels is the only group that can make that happen.”

Manchin announced Friday that he was stepping down from his position with No Labels. The move appeared to be connected to the group’s decision to endorse Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in his race against Sen. Mark Udall (D), which outraged Democrats.

That's right–Joe Lieberman, the hawkish, heavy-on-the-former Democrat who lost Connecticut's Democratic Senate primary in 2006 only to win the election as an independent, is now the head Democrat at No Labels. After 2006, Lieberman remained uneasily within the Democratic fold, but his 2008 endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain (above right) left him with few allies in the party–and he resigned after his last term ended in 2012. For most loyal Democrats today, Lieberman is more what you would call a "Pretendocrat."

On second thought, for this fake "nonpartisan" group, maybe Joe Lieberman is the perfect Pretendocrat? Not for actually attracting Democrats, of course. For pretending to! Because we suspect it will be difficult for No Labels to attract real Democrats going forward.


9 thoughts on ““No Labels” Completes Transition To GOP Front Group

  1. Congratulations to Gardner and to No Labels. You made a great choice and it paid off.

    From the parts of the NJ story Pols didn't quote:

    No Labels cofounder Bill Galston defended his group, saying it is misrepresented as supporting ideological centrists rather than people who simply espouse its views of working with political enemies. "Cory Gardner chose to associate himself with No Labels when he was a member of Congress," Galston said. "We opened the door to Senator Udall and kept it open."

    Galston pointed to the Iowa Senate race, where No Labels gave its "seal of approval" to both Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican challenger Joni Ernst. Udall, he said, could have achieved a similar outcome by simply accepting No Labels' overtures.

    The group's work for Gardner, Galston said, was a function of its limited resources, not necessarily a singling out of a particular race. "Cory Gardner was seen as someone who had embraced the ideals of No Labels quite strongly and had participated very actively in our organization," he said.

    And The Hill story: it looks like No Labels had a very good reason for backing Gardner.

    Margaret Kimbrell, No Labels executive director, acknowledged Friday that the Gardner endorsement played a role in Manchin’s decision.

    "We were proud to support Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner who has been a leader at No Labels working with colleagues across the aisle. We repeatedly invited his opponent in the Colorado Senate race — incumbent Senator Mark Udall — to join the group, to attend meetings, and offered him the Problem Solver Seal if he would agree to some simple bipartisan goals. Senator Udall chose not to participate in any way on any level," she said.

    Udall and the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. The country is passing you by, No Labels is just the messenger.

    1. So basically No Labels supports people who choose to play with No Labels, regardless of their ideology. LOL @ "Problem Solver Seal." IF NL had any clout before they certainly have lost it now, and I sincerely doubt they moved the needle at all in this race. No skin off our nose.

      The whole problem with these types of groups is they advance the false equivalence of D=left and R=right. It's created an environment when an original Tea Partier like Cory Gardner can be viewed as some sort of bipartisan moderate. Try again!

    2. Not sure how a rat fuck = "Country passing you by"

      The GOP should pat itself on the back for successfully duping Manchin – but that's all it was … it's not the mandate Majority Leader Limbaugh would have you think it is. 

    3. Let me get this straight. No Labels endorses Mr. Gardner because he joins their group and says he will work across the aisle even though his record shows he voted for the government shutdown and to repeal Obamacare over 50 times (he never voted for a repeal and replace). On none of the major issues has he attempted or offered a compromise so what qualified him as a centrist? Nothing. It appears No Labels was gamed by Mr. Gardner. All one needs to do is say you support compromise and working across the aisle and, even if your record establishes the opposite, this group will endorse your candidacy. The people running No Labels don't appear to be the sharpest knives in the drawer.

      1. No Labels endorsed Join Ernst too – you know, the gal that says she needs to pack heat to protect herself from government overreach …. No Labels my ass – more like No Morales



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