Smyth: If not Biden or Trump, then who?


Joe Smyth of Scottsdale, Arizona, is the author of “Fixing America’s Broken Politics: Common Sense Solutions to the Issues That Divide Us.” A former editor of the Daily State News, he’s now retired, and the opinions expressed here are his own.

I’m one of the many Americans who don’t want a “lame-duck” second term for President Joe Biden or for former President Donald Trump. It’s hard to believe that the two major parties have become so dysfunctional that — regardless of public opinion — they’re apparently going to nominate those two.

Donald Trump is still the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination, despite his increasingly irrational behavior. But polls aren’t always right, and people in Iowa seem pretty sensible to me. What if Trump wins less than 50% in the Monday caucus? Could it cause a momentum shift? Could it perhaps be the beginning of the end politically for Mr. Trump? If he also underperforms expectations in New Hampshire on Jan. 23, South Carolina on Feb. 24 and/or Michigan on Feb. 27, could Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis emerge as the Republican nominee?

Meanwhile, the Democrats seem hellbent on renominating President Biden, despite U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota at least having the courage to challenge him. Mr. Biden could probably improve his reelection chances by dumping his unpopular vice president, Kamala Harris, perhaps by offering her some other role in his next administration. But, unless Donald Trump is his opponent, polls suggest that Mr. Biden could lose to almost any other Republican nominee.

If Bumbling Biden and Troubling Trump are the eventual nominees, could 2024 be the year that a third alternative — a No Labels unity ticket of a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat — could actually win the presidency? But who would have the courage to leave their current party and risk their political future on a third-party long shot? Let’s have some fun brainstorming who the No Labels candidates might be!

Moderate Republicans: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker could be strong possibilities. All three impressively won second terms as governor of Democrat-leaning states — not an easy feat. Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor and former U.S. ambassador to Russia, could be another prospect, along with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. (Unfortunately, neither Nikki Haley nor Chris Christie could be a No Labels candidate because they competed for the Republican nomination.)

Moderate Democrats: U.S. Sen. and former West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin is often mentioned, though many Democrats dislike him for his willingness to compromise with Republicans. Could Arizona’s U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema be a strong No Labels candidate, partly because she has become one of the Senate’s best across-the-aisle negotiators? Other possibilities could be former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (who won two terms in a Republican-leaning state), former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Middle-of-the-road independent: Retired Adm. William McRaven, the author of the inspirational “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World,” is another intriguing possible No Labels candidate. He served proudly under presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush but was critical of President Trump’s behavior in office.

A wild thought: Are there any highly respected Americans who might lack political experience but could help unify the nation with his or her communication skills? Oprah Winfrey has generally supported Democrats, but she’s somewhat moderate in her views. At this time of national crisis, would she be willing to consider a position on the No Labels ticket and surround herself with experienced advisers? How about it, Oprah?

Well, those are my thoughts. What are yours? If Biden and Trump are the nominees, should No Labels offer a moderate unity ticket? If so, who would you like to see on that ticket? I can be reached at

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at

Members and subscribers make this story possible.
You can help support non-partisan, community journalism.