The initial $100,000 ad buy by Citizens to Save Our Republic, a group led by former House minority leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), broadens the group’s focus beyond No Labels to cast the third-party campaigns of attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., scholar Cornel West and Green Party activist Jill Stein as similar threats that could hasten Trump’s return to the White House.
“We are worried about any third party. We realize it is a free country. Anybody can run for president who wants to run for president,” Gephardt said in a video conference call with reporters on Monday afternoon. “But we have a right to tell citizens the danger they will face if they vote for any of these third-party candidates.”
No Labels, a nonprofit that urges bipartisan solutions, has launched a nationwide effort to get ballot access in all 50 states by next fall.
The initial ads by Citizens to Save Our Republic — which will run only in the D.C. area — are part of a larger campaign that the group is preparing to run in swing states next year if third-party efforts are appearing to draw significant support. The group said it plans to release its list of donors this week.
Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans are worried that President Biden needs to win the support of all voters who oppose Trump to win reelection. One ad describes Trump as the “anti-democracy candidate” before flashing images of Kennedy, Stein, West and the No Labels logo, arguing that any third-party group will help Trump. The other ad focuses on No Labels, describing the group as a “dark money” effort because it does not disclose its donors.
“The real threat to democracy is business as usual in Washington,” Kennedy said in a statement to The Washington Post responding to the ads. “Isn’t it a little ironic when Beltway insiders tell Americans that it’s dangerous to allow voters a choice?”
No Labels has been working this year to gain ballot access in anticipation of a third-party presidential bid next year. The group’s leaders call their effort an “insurance policy” and have said they will move forward with using its ballot line only if they are certain that there is a path to victory and that the effort will not reelect Trump. The organization recently canceled plans for an in-person convention in Dallas next year to focus on organizing an online nominating process for a bipartisan ticket.
The group has not publicly identified possible candidates, though multiple current and former officials have not ruled out seeking the nomination. They include Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who recently said he will not seek reelection to the Senate, and former Maryland governor Larry Hogan, a Republican.
“They are welcome to waste six figures running ads in Washington talking to other party insiders,” No Labels senior adviser Ryan Clancy said in a statement Monday. “We’ll stay focused on the two-thirds of Americans who live everywhere else and want another choice in 2024.”
Kennedy and West have launched independent efforts to gain access to state ballots. Stein is running for the nomination of the Green Party, which claims ballot access in 21 states.
Recent hypothetical head-to-head polls have suggested early appetite for a third-party contender if Democrats and Republicans put forward a rematch of the 2020 election. A late October poll by Quinnipiac University found Kennedy polling at 22 percent in a three-way race. That number would qualify him for access to debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates if he can maintain the support into next fall and can qualify for enough ballots to win the presidency.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), former congressman Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.), former senator Bill Cohen (R-Maine) and former senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) also spoke with reporters Monday on behalf of Citizens to Save Our Republic.
“Donald Trump is dedicated to dismantling, degrading and denigrating all of our institutions,” said Cohen, who also served as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton. “I have never felt more strongly that we are about 30 seconds from Armageddon in terms of the end of democracy.”