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The Dartmouth
April 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Joe Manchin and John Huntsman consider 2024 presidential bid at No Labels event

Manchin, a Democrat, and Huntsman, a Republican, furthered speculation they would run together on an independent ticket.

No Labels event.jpg

On July 17, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and former Gov. John Huntsman (R-Utah) did not rule out a 2024 White House bid during a town hall at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. While the town hall was billed as a promotion of “Common Sense” — the new political agenda for a centrist organization, No Labels — questions at the event mainly focused on Manchin and Huntsman’s plans for 2024.

Manchin, who is up for reelection next November, has fueled speculation in recent months by postponing his announcement on whether he will run for office until the end of this year. Hosting their town hall in New Hampshire — the site of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary — Manchin, Huntsman and No Labels seemed to embrace the possibility of a third party ticket, however; Manchin did not comment directly on the matter. 

The event was moderated by Scripps News reporter Kevin Cirill, who asked Manchin and Huntsman about the prospect of them becoming “spoiler” candidates — the idea that a No Labels ticket would siphon off votes from one major party, increasing the likelihood of the opposing party’s victory. Outside the event, roughly three billboard trucks drove around the venue with signs stating that a No Labels candidate would help former President Donald Trump win reelection.

“I’ve never been in any race I’ve ever spoiled; I’m in races to win,” Manchin said. “And if I get in the race, I’m going to win.”

Instead, Manchin said the focus of No Labels should be pulling Democrats and Republicans away from their ideological extremes by giving voice to independents.

“We’re here to make sure the American people have an option,” Manchin said. “And the option is, ‘can you move the political parties off their respective sides?’”

Though neither Manchin nor Huntsman have announced their candidacies, the two explained the potential benefits of an independent in the presidential race. They added that such a candidate should focus on what most of the American people want solved, including campaign finance reform, border control, gun control and management of the national debt, among other issues. 

Though Manchin and Huntsman did not always agree on solutions, both railed against federal intransigence to national problems. Huntsman, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, argued that the persistence of the national debt showed how politicians have ignored “the most fundamental and basic threat to our well being.”

“This is kind of a mind numbing conversation because we’re playing this loop over and over and over again, year after year after year,” Huntsman said. “Same questions from 2012. We’re not doing anything about it.”

Roland Shrull, a Windham resident, said the event and its showcase of two people from different political parties having a respectful dialogue was “refreshing.”

“Most Americans are like that,” Shrull said. “Most Americans would be willing to talk. They’re not so dogmatic.”

As the former U.S. ambassador to China, Huntsman said that growing American partisanship and polarization served China’s interests, arguing that “for us to be divided and to be constantly at each other” helps America’s adversaries.

Speaking on his political experience in Washington D.C., Manchin said that Democrats and Republicans are both to blame for the federal stalemate, adding that Congress’s “business model is better if you’re divided.” 

“If people make you believe you’re divided, don’t accept that,” Manchin said. “You’re not divided. You wouldn’t be sitting here if you were divided. It’s the politics in Washington.”

No Labels has pledged to gain ballot access for its candidates in all 50 states as a means of moderating the Democratic and Republican agendas, former Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.) said. 

According to McCrory, if by Super Tuesday — which is scheduled for March 5 — both major parties are poised to renominate President Joe Biden and former President Trump, respectively, No Labels will put forth alternative presidential and vice presidential candidates.

“We plan to do that, but only if we see we have an opportunity to win,” McCrory said. “And we’re going to be listening to the American people.”

In his closing remarks, Manchin argued that while he is “not running for president tonight,” his goal is to help reclaim the middle of American politics. Manchin added that, should his and No Labels’ efforts to push for political moderation fail, he would soon thereafter make an announcement about formally entering the race.

“If we’re showing you the common sense that most Americans want to be governed by, and neither [side] is doing that, and we can’t push it back to the middle, that will be a time to make a decision,” Manchin said.