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No Labels Defines Its Brand
The group struggles to find a way out of the wilderness of irrelevance.

Jon Huntsman (left) and Joe Manchin at the No Labels event, January 14, 2013

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Betsy Woodruff

One potential upside for members of the group is a PR boost — Manchin and Huntsman have gotten plenty of media coverage, and other Congressional Problem Solvers have also won attention from local publications. A few examples of the kind of positive press that No Labels involvement can generate: Hahn won praise from a local paper for being the only Californian congressman at the event, and the Providence Journal quoted Huntsman lauding Representative David Cicilline (D., R.I.) for his involvement. And Representative Jim Cooper (D., Tenn.) talked up his involvement in the group on a radio program that billed No Labels as including “top opinion makers from across the country” — a dubious description, to say the least.

For many of the group’s members, that kind of friendly news coverage could be a respite from less favorable press. Representative Jim Moran (D., Va.), a member of the group, made headlines when his son resigned from Moran’s campaign over a video where he seemed to condone voter fraud. Later, the same son made the news again for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. Representative Scott DesJarlais, another member and a pro-life Republican doctor, recently drew criticism for urging a patient (with whom he was having an affair) to have an abortion. Another member of the group, Representative Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.), came under scrutiny when one of his fundraisers was arrested on charges of immigration fraud (an ethics watchdog group later cleared Grimm of any wrongdoing related to the charges). And Representative Richard Hanna (R., N.Y.) may not have made many friends at the RNC when he urged women to donate to the Democratic party.

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The potential gains for these congressmen pales in comparison with Huntsman’s, though. Jeff Hartley, who was a consultant in both of his gubernatorial races, tells National Review Online that he suspects Huntsman’s involvement with No Labels could suggest he’s interested in running for office again. “I anticipate he returns to political opportunities at some point, and I imagine that his agreement to join that organization has something to do with his interest in another run at something,” Hartley says.

“It’ll be interesting if they are successful at doing anything,” he continues. “It kind of fits Huntsman’s mold to seek a more diplomatic approach to political challenges facing the country. He’s the consummate diplomat.”

Huntsman’s work for the group has put him back in the national spotlight, and if No Labels succeeds, his reputation could certainly be boosted. The former governor is optimistic about the group’s prospects. “No Labels can be a formidable organization,” he told a group of journalists at a midday press conference at the event.

Manchin elaborated on the group’s anticipated clout in an interview with National Review Online. “What we’d like to gain from the whole thing is that at the end of the day, No Labels has a brand to it,” he says. “That if you belong to No Labels, you’re willing to sit down and put your differences aside and put your country before your politics and before yourself.”

Huntsman agrees. I asked the former governor if he thought the group would eventually have the same magnitude of grassroots influence as the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street.

“Who knows what it will become,” he told me.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see.

— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.



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