No Labels Movement Seeks to Thwart Party System

Will a post-partisan 'middle way' end with Michael Bloomberg in the White House?

Dec. 15, 2010— -- If the goal of No Labels, a bipartisan group launched Monday to increase civility and cooperation in American politics, was to find common ground for partisans from both sides of the aisle, it was successful.

Conservative and liberal activists could agree on one thing -- they hate No Labels.

"I think it's naive to remove partisanship form politics," conservative radio host Dana Loesch told "Politics are a competition and the winning side sets the agenda. There's such a wide gap in what both sides believe, it's hard to compromise on anything actually important."

From the opposite end of the political spectrum, liberal blogger Matt Yglesias wrote a post titled "In Praise of Labels," arguing that "the idea that partisanship itself is somehow a bad thing" was misguided.

But beyond an adherence to their own ideologies, some of the skepticism over No Labels derives from what some see as the group's real mission -- not just singing Kumbaya on the Capitol steps, but generating enough interest, support and treasure for a viable third presidential candidate come 2012.

Enter the headliner at the No Labels kickoff, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

On Sunday, Bloomberg flatly denied he had any presidential asipirations. "No way, no how," Bloomberg told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

But the following day, Bloomberg gave the most recent in a series of public talks that have sounded like stump speeches, generating increased speculation that he might indeed be planning a run.

His comments before 1,000 No Labels supporters came just a week after a speech on economic policy that attacked Republicans and Democrats in equal measure and in which he called on Americans to find a "middle way."

"Last month, voters turned against Democrats in Washington for the same reason they turned against Republicans in 2006," Bloomberg said. "Democrats now, and Republicans then, spent more time and energy conducting partisan warfare than forging centrist solutions to our toughest economic problems."

The organizers of No Labels include Democratic fundraiser Nancy Jacobson and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who advised George W. Bush and John McCain in their presidential bids. They have said the event held Monday on Bloomberg's home turf was not intended as a launch platform for Bloomberg, but that hasn't quelled the speculation.

"It's too early to launch any kind of independent candidacy," said Hank Shankopf, a longtime Democratic strategist in New York. "People will continue to speculate. He's rich. He's popular. He's been a successful mayor of New York."

"No Labels represents a real effort by real people who are sick and tired of partisanship and want to move move beyond it. Republicans have moved all the way to the right, Democrats have moved all the way to left and there is a huge middle looking for something else. If Mike Bloomberg isn't the independent candidate in 2012, it's going to be someone else," said Sheinkopf.

McKinnon has said the movement is not intended to be a third party. It plans to form a political action committee to support moderate candidates from both parties, and has already raised $1 million in seed donations.

But on Monday, it was Bloomberg who sounded the least hopeful about a third-party candidate meeting with real success.

"In the end when you have an independent candidate it is the two major parties that get most of the votes," said Bloomberg.