As the ostensibly bipartisan interest group No Labels discovered on Monday, consensus campaigning and governance is all well and good until it comes time for the details.
At an event at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., the group had something of a soft launch of its potential third-party bid for the presidency when Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Republican governor of Utah, formally released No Labels’ policy manifesto for political compromise.
The two men took pains to say they were not the bipartisan presidential ticket of a No Labels candidacy, and that no such ticket would be formed if the Republican and Democratic nominees for 2024 would just embrace their moderation — “that won’t happen if they’re not threatened,” Mr. Manchin said threateningly.
On the lofty matter of cooperation and compromise, both men were all in, as were their introducers, Joseph I. Lieberman, a former Democratic senator turned independent, Benjamin Chavis, a civil rights leader and Democrat, and Pat McCrory, a former Republican governor of North Carolina.
“The common-sense majority has no voice in this country,” Mr. Huntsman said. “They just watch the three-ring circus play out.”
But the dream unity ticket seemed anything but unified when it came down to the nuts and bolts.
One questioner from the audience raised her concerns about worsening climate change, the extreme weather that was drenching New England and Mr. Manchin’s securing of a new natural gas pipeline in his home state.
To that, Mr. Manchin fell back on his personal preference, promoted in No Labels’ manifesto, for an “all of the above” energy policy that embraced renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, as well as continued production of climate-warming fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Mr. Huntsman jumped in to propose putting “a price on carbon,” something usually done through fossil fuel emissions taxes, to curb oil, gas and coal use, proposals that Mr. Manchin, hailing from a coal and gas state, roundly rejected.
Asked about gun control, the two could not even seem to agree on the relatively modest proposals in the No Labels plan: universal background checks on firearms purchases and raising the buying age for military-style semiautomatic weapons to 21 from 18.
Mr. Manchin, who co-wrote a universal background check bill in 2012 only to see it die in the Senate, said “there’s a balance to be had” in curbing gun purchases. Mr. Huntsman fell back on his party’s decade-long dodge on stricter gun regulation — mental health care.
They even seemed to disagree on Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right Republican from Georgia. Mr. Huntsman bristled at being asked about her statement that the United States should withdraw from NATO, saying serious policymakers are too often asked questions about “the flamethrowers.” Mr. Manchin said he would not speak ill of any sitting member of Congress.
“All 535 people elected to Congress want to do good,” he said.
One thing both men agreed on: No Labels need not divulge the big donors that are fueling the current drive toward a possible third-party bid for the White House. Democratic opponents of the effort have accused the group of hiding a donor list that leans heavily Republican, proof, opponents say, that the drive is all about electing former President Donald J. Trump to a second term.
No Labels has denied that but declined to reveal its current donors.
“I don’t think it’s right or good. I think there should be transparency and accountability,” Mr. Huntsman said of the group’s decision. “But that’s not the way you play the game.”
He added, “The system sucks.”