Regional Democratic Party officials quietly circulated what they said were instructions from the Democratic National Committee, along with suggestions about how local party officials could help try to thwart efforts by the group No Labels to mount a third-party 2024 presidential bid, new records obtained by CBS News show.

“We need to do everything we can to stop this effort NOW, and not wait until they name a ticket and this becomes a runaway train,” a Democratic Party official in Utah said in an email obtained by CBS News. “And right now is the moment to act, while the conventional wisdom on this hasn’t hardened yet and we have the opportunity to shape it.” 

When reached for comment, the official provided another phone number but then did not respond to subsequent calls.

The email urged local leaders to “go on the record denouncing a [No Labels] third party presidential ticket effort—issue a statement on social media, put out an open letter, use media appearances.” 

It cited DNC instructions and included talking points for local and state party officials to use in their efforts to knock down the third-party movement. 

A DNC official declined to comment but noted that the talking points outlined in the email were not its own. According to an email obtained by CBS News, the DNC simply forwarded information prepared by the center-left think tank Third Way. 

Third Way did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The documents offer a glimpse into the jitters inside some quarters of the Democratic Party about the implications of a third-party movement, given voters’ concerns about President Biden’s poll numbers, as well as his age and health.

Democrats have been voicing anxiety that the No Labels effort will only benefit former President Trump, who is the Republican frontrunner, by splitting the vote if he becomes the GOP nominee in the 2024 presidential contest. No Labels has qualified for the ballot in 11 states and is working on gathering signatures in dozens more. The group has raised almost $70 million dollars for its ballot access initiative. 

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who is aligned with No Labels, has indicated he’s considering leaving the party and running on a unity ticket if Trump and Joe Biden are their respective party’s nominees.

The state Democratic official’s email reads, “The DNC has asked for state and county parties not to make any public statements right now about No Labels (although they are okay with elected officials speaking out publicly against them).” 

It goes on to list talking points like this one: “The effort by the No Labels Party is a direct threat to our democracy and opens a clear path for Donald Trump’s reelection. Plus, history and data show that there is no actual scenario where No Labels can win with their third-party ticket.”

No Labels founding chair and former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, the head of No Labels’ ballot integrity initiative, sent a joint statement to CBS News expressing concerns about any effort to derail their work. 

“The attempt to shut down No Labels is not an attack on the organization. It’s an attack on America’s democracy,” Lieberman and Nixon’s joint statement says. “American voters decide who goes on their ballot and they are the ones signing No Labels petitions in states nationwide. That’s why we ask the Democratic National Committee – who has claimed to champion free and fair elections – to stand down and stop all efforts to limit the voters’ choices in this, or any, election.”

The Utah Democratic official’s email also seeks information about whether local party officials may have been contacted by the independent group.

“Let us know what you’re hearing,” the email reads. “Has anyone from No Labels reached out to you?” 

The email also advises party officials to “come out strongly against NL potential presidential and vice-presidential candidates and their pathetic policy positions.”