An earlier version of this article was published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Hello, friends. This weekend marks six months since the October 7 attack on Israel. Deseret Magazine editor Jesse Hyde visited Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the attack’s epicenters. His account is worth your time.

3 things to know

  1. Abortion will be on the ballot in Florida this November, joining a host of other states — including Nevada and Arizona — whose voters may decide the legality of abortion during the presidential election. In Florida, the proposed amendment would bar restrictions on abortion before “fetal viability,” considered to be near the end of the second trimester. Read more here.
  2. Easter Sunday turned political when President Joe Biden acknowledged it as the “Transgender Day of Visibility,” leading to quick backlash from conservatives. In a rally in Green Bay on Tuesday, former President Donald Trump chided Biden for “total disrespect” for Christians, and he declared Election Day in November the “Christian visibility day.” The Biden administration noted that the Trans Day of Visibility has fallen on March 31 since its inception 15 years ago. More here.
  3. “Literally Anybody Else” is running for president. Seriously. A seventh grade math teacher legally changed his name to “Literally Anybody Else” and is working to gain ballot access in Texas. “I don’t care as much about winning the Oval Office, but it is important that the message gets through,” he said. More here.

The Big Idea

No Labels, no dice

For months now, the centrist political group No Labels has toyed with the possibility of running a presidential candidate. It fought to get ballot access in states across the country, including Utah. It leaked poll after poll that showed a “unity ticket” — an unnamed, moderate Republican and Democrat — could beat both Trump and Biden in November. And in early March, it showed the most promising sign yet: its delegates voted “unanimously” to move forward in identifying who, exactly, those candidates would be.

But on Thursday afternoon, it all came to a screeching halt. The Wall Street Journal jumped on the news first: “No Labels Will Abandon 2024 Presidential Campaign Effort.” The Journal cited “people familiar with the plans” who claimed the organization would announce its decision Monday. Within an hour, though, No Labels released its own statement, claiming it would only run a candidate if they had “a credible path to winning the White House.”

“No such candidates emerged,” the statement read, “so the responsible course of action is for us to stand down.”

The news shouldn’t come as a surprise. In some ways, No Labels was doomed to fail: it was a grandiose vision that ran in direct contrast to the modus operandi, and it faced fire from all sides. MAGA Republicans feared they would pull away votes from Trump. More voices on the left said the same about Biden. In an election cycle where the two major party mechanisms showed incredible power, securing nominations for a historically unpopular incumbent and an even more unfavorable ex-president, the fact that No Labels’ third-party daydream lasted this long was improbable.

But the group was thriving off improbability. Well-intentioned improbability, sure — but its constant reassurances that Americans want a third option, and the conflation that Americans must then want their version of a third option, lacked real basis in fact.

Repeatedly, No Labels cited internal polling that showed a vast majority of Americans wanting their ticket. In an August meeting with the Deseret News, CEO Nancy Jacobson cited a poll of nearly 9,500 voters in eight swing states. Nearly two-thirds don’t think Trump should run for reelection. More than that say the same of Biden. 63% would consider voting for an unnamed “moderate independent candidate.”

The problem? The ballot this November wouldn’t include a generic, unnamed centrist. It would include a politician — preferably a well-known one, to boost the late-game need for name recognition. But to be well-known is quite the opposite of genericness, when subject to the election-year gauntlet of baggage-searching and character assassination. Even Mitt Romney, perhaps the most milquetoast of presidential nominees this century, is made out to be a villain.

And when it came time to put a name on the ballot, potential candidates vanished. Not Joe Manchin (though Jacobson told us they wanted a Republican atop the ticket). Not Jon Huntsman Jr. (when we asked, he told us no). Not Mitt Romney (he told us no, too). Not Nikki Haley (she told us no, three). Not Chris Christie or ex-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan or ex-Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan.

Even if they were to field a candidate, there’s no telling whether No Labels would have been able to get on the ballot across the country. Every state has different requirements for third parties to run a presidential candidate. Some are fairly straightforward — in Utah, a group must gain the requisite number of signatures and pay a filing fee before a deadline. Other states are more labyrinthian. Jacobson wrote that No Labels spent “two years and millions of dollars” trying to get on each state’s ballot. “Our goal is to hand our ballot lines to a worthy, courageous and electable leader who can run a campaign to unite America,” she wrote. “If one does not emerge, we will leave our ballot line unused.”

She kept her word. Perhaps No Labels’ failure is an indictment of the American political system, which rewards the two major parties and marginalizes others. Perhaps it is a reflection of widely-held voter psychology — that voters are enticed by many options early, but often resort to whatever is most familiar. Or perhaps it’s a somber realization that November will, indeed, be a Trump-Biden rematch, and the best chance at course-correction was during the respective party primaries. Too little, too late.

Weekend reads

In 2020, many states used mail-in voting for the first time, due to the pandemic. This year, several of them will do it again. But many Republicans, thanks to Trump and others, view the system as fraud-ridden and insecure. The problem? If Trump wants to win, he will likely need to get his followers to embrace whatever forms of voting are offered in their respective states. Republicans pushing to embrace mail-in voting encounter widespread resistance (Natasha Korecki, Matt Dixon, Abigail Brooks and Emma Barnett, CBS News).

Rural voters may decide the 2020 election, especially in swing states with low population density like Nevada and Arizona. But rural Americans are often vilified, like in the new book “White Rural Rage,” which claims (among other things) that rural people are more likely to support political violence. The book has some major flaws, though, like failing to define “rural,” or doing so haphazardly (like I just did, in claiming “rural” means “low population density”). Above all else, the book portrays them as uneducated, poor and dangerous — all stemming from flawed research. A look at a misunderstood group that will be important this election: An Utterly Misleading Book About Rural America (Tyler Austin Harper, The Atlantic).

A break from presidential coverage: This is a fascinating read at the intersection of religion and urban planning, making the case for Christians to support policies that promote high-density housing in cities. Urban centers are the future of the church, the author claims: “Catholics should support YIMBY policies because their faith demands it.” As America Becomes More Secular, American Religion Will Need To Become More Urban (Christian Britschgi, Reason).

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.