In this photo provided by No Labels, Former Ambassador to China and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, left, and Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.), address reporters after the pair became the new leaders of No Labels in New York, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
David Karp—No Labels/AP
October 28, 2014 7:55 AM EDT

As a rule, Sen. Joe Manchin will not campaign against a sitting Republican senator. A month ago, the West Virginia Democrat called the practice a “horrible precedent,” according to Politico, saying it would hurt his ability to cross the aisle if he were out there on the campaign trail tossing red meat to the crowd.

But thanks to his co-chairmanship of No Labels, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Manchin is now in charge of a get-out-the-vote operation against a sitting senator from his own party.

On Monday, Real Clear Politics reported that No Labels “will be staging independent Get Out The Vote efforts to support our Problem Solver members,” including Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is trying to unseat Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in one of the tightest races this year. Gardner, who was ranked as one of the most conservative members of Congress last year, has received the group’s “Seal of Approval” and touted his endorsement as a shorthand for his ability to work with Democrats.

Manchin’s spokesman says he was caught by surprise by No Labels recent efforts to back Gardner, even though the group endorsed the Colorado candidate back in April.

“Senator Manchin 100 percent supports Senator 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,” says Manchin communications director Jonathan Kott. “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.”

Udall’s campaign was not fazed, however.

“We’ve opened 24 field offices, hired 100 organizers and recruited more than 5,000 volunteers,” says Chris Harris, a spokesman for the Udall campaign. “Let’s just say we’re not too concerned about anything resembling a field effort that can be cobbled together in the final week of the campaign.”

Gardner is ahead by around 3 points, according to a Real Clear Politics aggregation of polls.

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