Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) on Wednesday called for 2016 presidential candidates to endorse a “national strategic agenda,” in an effort to unite moderate voters during the election cycle.
Lieberman and Huntsman, who have both mounted unsuccessful bids for the presidency, are co-chairs of the bipartisan non-profit No Labels. The group aims to build a grassroots moderate movement, with a short-term focus in early-voting like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Lieberman and Huntsman said their agenda calls for job growth, balancing the budget, energy efficiency and Medicare and Social Security reform — though the group has yet to offer policy proposals. They said they’re planning to release policy proposals in the fall and next spring that they hope will influence presidential candidates.
They hinted that the organization would provide grassroots infrastructure to support bipartisan commissions and super-committees, which in recent years have failed to combat opposition from progressive groups and the Tea Party.
“Imagine Simpson-Bowles with a mechanism to deliver,” said Huntsman at the forum, alluding to the moderate-backed deficit reduction plan authored by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Erskine Bowles, former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton.
Huntsman left the door open to No Labels endorsing political candidates, but he indicated it’d be more likely for the group to offer a “seal of approval” towards candidates in both parties.
No Labels has helped to create a “Problem Solvers Caucus” in Congress, which has backed No Label’s strategic goals — hardly a significant feat, given that the group hasn’t unveiled policy prescriptions yet.
Still, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a co-chair of the caucus who also appeared at the event, hinted the Caucus could play a role in future economic debates.
“There was no Problem Solver Caucus when Simpson-Bowles was there,” Schrader said at the event. “That’s the difference.”
Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said at the event that there is an “appetite for members of Congress to join organizations like this.”
“If I can go to a meeting and I’ve got 1,000 people in a room [who are No Labels volunteers] … that’s very attractive to elected officials,” Reed said.
Reed said if No Labels develops a strong “seal of approval” rating system, it could create a “brand that now sanctions your candidacy.
“[You’ve then got] access to the grassroots and you’ve got legitimacy and credibility with a common-sense silent majority,” Reed said.
Tea Party and progressive groups have used long used scoring members of Congress as a way to influence policy discussions in Washington.
“That’s the whole idea here — to offer No Labels as a vehicle to the American people who are frustrated, disappointed and angry about their government,” Lieberman said. “There is not a face or a candidate — that’s what’s unique about it.”