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No Labels Backs Gardner Ground Effort in Colorado

No Labels Backs Gardner Ground Effort in Colorado

By Adam O'Neal - October 27, 2014

No Labels, the nonpartisan political group aimed at ending gridlock in Washington, will actively support Rep. Cory Gardner in the final days of his challenge against Colorado Sen. Mark Udall.  

According to an email obtained by RealClearPolitics, No Labels “will be staging independent Get Out The Vote efforts to support our Problem Solver members” between Oct. 31 and Election Day. Gardner is one of those members and is specifically mentioned in the email. 

Sent late last week, the email asks former interns if they are “willing to travel to either Sacramento, California or Denver, Colorado with a team of No Labels staffers to assist with” voter turnout operations. No Labels offered to cover travel costs. 

Rep. Ami Bera -- a vulnerable California Democrat with strong ties to No Labels -- will also receive voter-turnout help from the group.  Bera’s race against Republican Doug Ose is rated a tossup, according to RCP.

No Labels, which was founded in 2010 with the goal of establishing problem-solving consensus and fighting Washington gridlock, confirmed the voter-turnout operation to RCP.

Dozens of Democratic and Republican senators and members of Congress have become affiliated with the organization since it was created. No Labels has garnered plenty of media attention and has raised millions of dollars, though some have questioned its effectiveness. The group is currently developing a "National Strategic Agenda" to debut in 2016, intended to shape the debate in the presidential campaign. 

No Labels’ move to more aggressively back the Colorado Republican seems uncharacteristic, however, especially since controversy involving Gardner already consumed the nonpartisan group earlier this year. No Labels endorsed Gardner in April, angering Senate Democrats. The backlash led the organization to clarify that any candidate could earn its endorsement -- including Udall. 

“The No Labels Seal of Approval is awarded to members of the Problem Solvers Caucus who have worked across the political aisle and support a national strategic agenda of shared goals for the country,” said Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to George W. Bush and a No Labels co-founder. “We are happy to award the Seal to people running in the same race.” 

Udall, who currently trails his challenger by 2.8 percentage points in the RCP polling average, never got a seal. 

The Colorado Democrat’s electoral strategy -- which has been largely negative in tone and focused on depicting Gardner as radical and anti-women -- has turned off some moderates, which may explain the group's decision to back his opponent. The Denver Post editorial board, which generally endorses Democrats, denounced Udall’s “obnoxious one-issue campaign” and endorsed Gardner.

“Democrats have squandered one of Udall’s tremendous personal and political strengths in that he is truly one of the nicest, most decent people in Colorado politics,” said a veteran Colorado Republican operative. “And yet he has come across as a dour, mean-spirited, tired old incumbent.” 

Sen. Joe Manchin is an honorary co-chair at No Labels, and a spokesman for the West Virginia lawmaker told RCP that the senator “100 percent” supports Udall and “will do anything he can do to help him win his election, because he believes that moderates like Senator Udall can help move this country forward. Senator Manchin just learned about the actions of No Labels and does not agree with this approach. He is going to discuss this with No Labels and will take the appropriate actions.”

Manchin mentioned Udall (and other endangered Democratic senators) on Sunday as someone who is “willing to reach across the aisle, work with Republicans, independents whoever they may be, trying to find solutions for America.” 

Gardner has often referenced No labels on the campaign trail. Last week, he told KVNF, “This organization gave me their No Labels problem-solver seal of approval because of the work I’ve done across the aisle.”

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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