Dean Phillips is not making a bid if 2024 is Trump vs. Biden

Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota, the Democrat leading a long-running primary challenge to President Biden, said on Saturday he would consider running for No Labels, a centrist group exploring an independent candidacy, if the general election appeared to be a rematch between Mr. Biden and Donald J. .Trump.

In an interview, Mr. Phillips publicly articulated for the first time the circumstances under which he would accept No Labels’ presidential nomination and said he is in regular communication with Nancy Jacobson, the group’s executive director. Mr. Biden’s Democratic allies are upset about “No Labels,” worried that any candidate he runs could draw votes away from him.

“People criticize them because they believe that what they offer on their list will hurt Joe Biden,” Mr. Phillips after a town hall meeting at a senior center in Nashua, NH. “That’s a lie. If they put someone at the top of the list who could actually drive away the votes of Donald Trump, every Democrat in the United States of America should be celebrating. They didn’t make that decision.

Mr. Phillips has a long association with Ms. Jacobson and No Labels from his tenure on the congressional Caucus, an organization that promotes policies with bipartisan support. He said he told Ms Jacobson he would not discuss running as a No Labels candidate “at this time”.

But Mr. Phillips said he would consider running as a no-label candidate if polls suggested Mr. Biden would lose to Mr. Trump in November.

“It would have to be a Joe Biden-Donald Trump rematch that shows Joe Biden is almost certainly going to lose,” Mr. Phillips said. “That is the only condition in which I could even discuss any alternative.”

He added: “Everyone should keep an open head, heart and mind, because why should we rule out the possibility of defeating this terrible threat to democracy?”

Three months after he started his presidential campaign, Mr. Phillips remains a little-known curiosity in the New Hampshire primary race. A survey published on January 9 University of New Hampshire showed him 7 percent support in the Democratic primary. He told reporters on Saturday that he would be satisfied with “mid-twenties” support in Tuesday’s election.

Mr. Phillips spent millions of dollars of his money on his bid, and his TV ads are ubiquitous on New Hampshire television, but it’s unclear how much support he has.

New Hampshire voters at his Saturday event in Nashua were heavily outnumbered by out-of-state college students, political tourists and journalists. It is also atypical for presidential candidates to publicly float as a third-party or independent candidate while still competing in a major party primary race.

Mr. Trump offered a mocking endorsement of Mr. Phillips at his rally on Saturday night in Manchester, NH. “Democrats should vote for the congressman,” he said.

Mr. Biden’s name will not be on the primary ballot in New Hampshire. His campaign declined to participate after the state refused to cooperate with his changes to the Democratic presidential nominating calendar, which moved South Carolina into first place.

A well-funded group of Biden loyalists has launched its own campaign in New Hampshire, encouraging Democrats to write in Mr. Biden’s name on Tuesday’s ballot.

Democratic groups allied with the Biden campaign have been working together for months to thwart Ms. Jacobson’s bid to field an alternative presidential candidate in November. They fear that any vote for a third or independent presidential candidate will take votes away from Mr. Biden, as his campaign focuses on making the 2024 election a referendum on Mr. Trump’s fitness for office.

Ms. Jacobson tried to recruit Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and former Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, among others, in an effort to find a high-profile figure to lead the president’s No Labels list. Ms. Jacobson has told donors privately that the group plans to select a Republican as its presidential nominee. Mr. Hogan – who until recently was a member of the No Labels board – he said so publicly.

A spokesman for the Biden campaign declined to discuss Mr. Phillips.

Ms. Jacobson said Saturday that it was “too early to speculate” on who No Labels might choose as its standard-bearer or whether the group would follow through on plans to field a presidential candidate.

“Dean Phillips is a great member of the Problem Solving Club,” she said. “He embodies the ethos of the No Labels movement.”

In the interview, Mr. Phillips has repeatedly said that he “doesn’t rule anything out” and condemned the absolutist language of other politicians.

“No label can be either the goat or the hero,” he said. “I will also do everything I can to ensure that they are the latter.”

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