The No Labels movement has so far won placement on the 2024 ballot in 10 states, including Utah. Also, the Beehive State has been accommodating to third parties since territorial status. We review the impact of these alternative voices on local politics.

In addition to qualifying for ballot access in Utah, No Labels enjoys a strong connection with former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Adding to the intrigue, former President Donald Trump and, especially, President Joseph Biden are viewed unfavorably by a majority of Utahns. Would a No Labels ticket have a chance in Utah if Trump and Biden are the major party nominees?

Pignanelli: “70% of America, if it’s a Trump/Biden ticket, will be politically homeless. They — they won’t have any inspiration.” — Gov. Chris Sununu, New Hampshire  

The No Labels movement selected quite possibly the worst name since the nativist “Know Nothing” party of the mid-19th century. Notwithstanding a flimsy moniker, this nascent crusade is capturing national and regional attention.

Utahns have a history of supporting third parties (i.e. 1912, Progressive, 21%, Socialist, 8%; 1968, American Independent, 6.37%; 1992, Reform/Independent, 27%; 2016, Independent, 21%). Renowned political adviser Karl Rove theorized depending on who No Labels chooses to be on the ticket, that candidate could hurt or help either major party. Thus, a conceivable conjecture is a recognizable and popular conservative leading the effort could attract Utahns and draw significant support from Trump.

Many political observers dismiss the chances of No Labels. But we are in unprecedented times, which expand opportunities for outside of the mainstream. Having an undefined, and strange, brand may be the best strategy for 2024.

Webb: On paper, a moderate No Labels ticket featuring Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Huntsman as vice president should have a solid chance in Utah. And, I believe such a ticket would win a higher percentage of votes in Utah than in most states. Alas, it wouldn’t be enough. Despite surveys showing solid support for a third party, by election day most voters would return home to their respective parties.

I believe if the stark, unhappy choice for president is between Trump and Biden, enough Utah Republicans would hold their noses and vote for Trump to give him the state’s electoral votes. They’re not going to chance electing Biden by voting for a third party candidate. While many Utah Republicans are not Trump fans, electing Biden would be even worse for them.

The best scenario to put a non-Trump Republican in the White House is for one of his solid, conservative GOP opponents to begin to chip away at his support. Then the other GOP candidates must drop out and rally around the best Trump alternative. But it may be too late. Trump is looking strong across the country.

Still, could lightning strike and prevent a Trump nomination? Perhaps. 

Related
Opinion: Does Utah have a non-Trump favorite for president?
Opinion: Tired of Biden and Trump? Here’s a third option

Many polls indicated that Sen. Mitt Romney would face a tough Republican primary should he choose reelection next year. (A recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey does show an improved approval rating for Romney.) There has been speculation among politicos that Romney could announce as an independent and have a good chance in the general election. Is this a realistic possibility? 

Pignanelli: For several years, polling documented a significant disapproval rating for Romney among conservative Republicans. Romney enjoys stronger support among the general Utah population. If Romney chose the independent path, he would caucus with the Republicans, preventing a formal Democrat endorsement. But many unaffiliated and Democratic voters would cross the ballot for him in November. Evan McMullin was unknown, without roots or strong relationships to Utah voters, yet with Democrat and independent assistance captured 42.8% against Mike Lee. Romney, with much greater depth than McMullin, would be a formidable independent. (But this is an unlikely scenario.)

Webb: Again, this idea may look good on paper. Romney would attract strong support from Democrats and many independents. But this approach was tried just last year with McMullin opposing Lee, who wasn’t popular among moderates and Democrats. It didn’t work. Romney would certainly be a stronger independent than McMullin, but if the GOP nominee is Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, as would be likely under this scenario, Romney would have little chance to win as an independent. That’s because Wilson is a solid mainstream conservative, is not a scary right-winger, and would be supported by most Republicans and many moderates and independents.

The United Utah Party is the state’s unique flavor of an alternate political structure, fielding legislative and congressional candidates for years. Will this organization, or another choice outside the major parties, ever make gains?

Pignanelli: Over 100 years ago, many socialist candidates were elected by Utahns to local offices. They succeeded because they were identified with specific objectives. If the major parties continue to drift, and the UUP or other entities become well known for endeavors important to Utahns, several swing seats could be won.

Webb: The small party may have an impact on the fringes. Perhaps it could be a spoiler in a very close race. 

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semiretired small farmer and political consultant. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.