Members associated with No Labels, the centrist political organization plotting a third-party presidential bid, are singing the praises of newly minted House Speaker Mike Johnson — casting him as, at least temperamentally, a moderate.
“He’s a Reagan Republican, not a Trump Republican,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in a Zoom call organized by No Labels and attended by a few hundred of the group’s supporters. Fitzpatrick is part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that is backed by No Labels.
The call, which took place shortly after Johnson’s elevation to the speakership, comes amid a heightened amount of scrutiny on the new speaker’s record, including a renewed look at the role he played in trying to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election. Johnson voted against certifying the election on Jan. 6, 2021, and encouraged other Republicans to join on an amicus brief challenging the results in several states.
He worked with Trump on the matter. And the former president has embraced him in return. On Wednesday, Trump triumphantly called the new speaker “MAGA MIKE JOHNSON!” in a social media post.
Though No Labels has tried to situate itself as a bipartisan, common sense alternative to both parties, Democrats have raised concerns the group’s planned third-party bid will hurt Biden’s reelection efforts. No Labels maintains that its mission appeals to both parties. It has cited Trump’s electoral claims, and specifically his attempt “to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power after he lost the 2020 election” as one of the central reasons it opposes him.
On Wednesday’s call, Fitzpatrick said, “We stand by the fact that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president of the United States.” He acknowledged that there were “some irregularities” in some states but not to the extent Trump claimed. “It didn’t change the outcome of the election,” he said.
“We disagree with Mike on that,” Fitzpatrick continued. “And I’m not sure Mike would do the same thing today.”
Biden, for his part, dismissed concerns that Johnson would overturn 2024 election results as speaker. “Just like I was not worried that the last guy would be able to overturn the election,” Biden said in a press conference on Wednesday.
On the No Labels call, during which only Republican lawmakers spoke, members tried to paint Johnson as someone who did not represent the right wing of the party. “He’s not even a member of the Freedom Caucus,” Fitzpatrick said, referring to the ultra-conservative group of lawmakers.
Instead, Fitzpatrick pointed out, Johnson chaired the Republican Study Committee.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), another member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, described Johnson as having “a very humble spirit” and being “approachable and “upbeat” and a man of “decency.”
“He provided a vision. And I think leadership starts with a vision right? He gave a vision that was not as hyper-partisan,” said Bacon.