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No Labels floats the possibility of a coalition government or Congress selecting the president in 2024

The group, which is trying to mount a third-party presidential campaign, could block a major party nominee from winning the Electoral College outright.
A No Labels rally on Capitol Hill in 2011.
A No Labels rally on Capitol Hill in 2011.Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

No Labels, the organization attempting to assemble a third-party presidential unity ticket, is openly floating the prospect of a “coalition government” forming after the 2024 election if no candidate reaches the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the White House.

Officials with the group are mapping out an unlikely and largely unprecedented scenario where they could be in a position to cut deals on policy, Cabinet posts or even the vice presidency if their still-unformed ticket manages to win electoral votes and blocks a major-party nominee from winning the presidency outright.

“It’s possible that if you got to the Electoral College and no candidate had 270 [electoral votes], that there could be negotiation to create a coalition government where electors get traded between different candidates to get somebody over 270,” Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels, told reporters on Wednesday. Clancy added: “There are quite a number of states that have what are called ‘unbound electors,’ which is to say: Those electors are not statutorily required to vote for the candidate that won their state at the Electoral College.”

In 33 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, laws prevent “unbound electors,” statutorily requiring electors to vote for the presidential and vice presidential candidates who won their state’s popular vote.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, a co-founder of No Labels, expanded on the group’s view of this potential scenario in an interview with NBC News on Thursday, suggesting the No Labels ticket could “cut a deal” with one of the major parties’ tickets.

“It could be Cabinet posts. It could be a policy concession. That’s the kind of thing it could be,” Davis said, adding the vice presidential position could also be part of the discussions.

Davis said a “deal could clearly be cut” to “swing faithless electors over” to another ticket’s candidates.

“It could be, for example: ‘We’re going to build a border wall [and] not run deficits.’ Any number of things,” Davis said.

In the video conference call with reporters, Clancy said that a coalition government is not “the plan” of No Labels, which is seeking to place a presidential ticket on the ballot in all 50 states.

“One thing I really want to clarify: This is not No Labels’ plan. This is not No Labels’ strategy,” Clancy said, adding he wants to put forth a ticket that can win the Electoral College outright.

Davis also said that the group is looking at another potential, if far-fetched, outcome: A contingent election in which the president is selected by the U.S. House.

In the event that an effort to swing unbound electors fails and no candidate receives 270 Electoral College votes, the 12th Amendment of the Constitution stipulates that each state’s House delegation votes for one of the presidential candidates. In order to secure the presidency, one of the presidential candidates must receive the support of 26 state delegations. The Senate would select the vice president.

When asked if No Labels has looked at state delegations that could potentially side with the No Labels ticket in a contingent election, Davis responded, “Of course. Of course. Of course. We’ve mapped all this out.”

He noted, as an example, that a state with one House member could “hold out” on its initial support of a ticket.

“[They could] say, ‘Well, I’m not going to — I’m not going to be the 26th state on this unless you make certain concessions,’ or ‘I’m going to need a Cabinet [post]. I’m going to need a judgeship,’” Davis said, emphasizing: “The point is: The Constitution allows for that kind of potential to do those kinds of things.”

No Labels has yet to field a presidential or vice presidential candidate for its possible bipartisan ticket. Clancy said the group intends to offer its ballot line to its eventual candidates in the spring.

Come November 2024, it could take as little as the No Labels ticket winning one state to prevent either major-party candidate from receiving 270 electoral votes, forcing one of these scenarios to play out.

The Republican Party currently holds majorities in 26 of the House delegations. But the responsibility to decide the next president in a contested election scenario would not fall to the current House members, but to those elected in 2024.

“The House that would decide is not the one that is there now — it’s the one that would be seated next January,” Clancy said.

The House has twice — 1800 and 1824 — selected a president by direct vote of state congressional delegations. In 1824, Andrew Jackson won a plurality of the popular vote in an election where four candidates received electoral votes. But he fell short of the needed 131 Electoral College votes. In January 1825, the election went to the House, where a majority of congressional delegations voted for the runner-up John Quincy Adams, awarding him the presidency.

The last third-party presidential candidate to win Electoral College votes was George Wallace, who ran on the American Independent Party ticket in 1968.