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Who: Howard Schultz, a 65-year-old billionaire businessman and former CEO of Starbucks
What: The coffee chain mogul announced that he is weighing whether to run as a “centrist independent” in the 2020 presidential election during an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” – a move that has the potential to seriously alter the balance of the race.
Schultz is a self-proclaimed lifelong Democrat who publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. His announcement has caused some concern for the Democratic Party, which fears a Schultz candidacy could split the electorate and pave the way for President Trump’s reelection. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who ran in the 2004 Democratic primary, told Yahoo News that Schultz is “going to get, by my calculations, between 6 and 14 percent of the vote, and he’ll get zero electoral votes and he’ll give the possibility of swinging the race to Trump.”
Schultz again teased a 2020 run at the launch of his book tour in Manhattan, where a heckler was escorted off the premises for yelling: “Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire,” before calling Schultz an expletive. The heckler added that Schultz should “go back to Davos with the other billionaire elite who think they know how to run the world.”
Why: During his “60 Minutes” interview, Schultz said he was considering running during a “fragile time” for the country, and said he believed Trump is “not qualified to be president.”
He argued in an op-ed in USA Today that he believes voters are fed up with the two-party system because both Democrats and Republicans now embrace “extreme ideologies” and need a “Washington outsider” in the presidential race.
What’s next: The billionaire said that any run “should not be undertaken without intense preparation” and promised he wouldn’t run unless he felt it was possible to win.
“To decide, I will spend the next few months continuing to learn, listen, talk with people, hear their stories and understanding what people need – and whether they are ready for a new choice,” Schultz wrote in his op-ed.
A Schultz run will ensure Trump wins a second term.
“In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President. That’s a risk I refused to run in 2016 and we can’t afford to run it now.” – Former New York City Mayor and possible Democratic candidate for president Michael Bloomberg, MikeBloomberg.com
“Absent such changes, his candidacy would threaten to siphon away enough votes to give Trump a second term. … By flirting with such a risk, Schultz is demonstrating a level of megalomaniacal recklessness that is itself disqualifying.” – Michelle Goldberg, New York Times
“Already top Democratic operatives working for presidential candidates and beyond say they’re worried that the only thing he’ll accomplish is making sure Donald Trump gets re-elected. It’s more than just sniping at a prospective opponent; word that he might invest in an independent run has many of them clearly worried about how he’d split votes in a general election.” – Edward-Isaac Dovere, Atlantic
Fears that Schultz will split the vote for a Trump win are overblown.
As the Onion put it, with a rare headline that was more factual than satiric: “Howard Schultz Considering Independent Presidential Run After Finding No Initial Support Among Any Voter Groups.” Rather than discourage him from running, Democrats should welcome it – to prove once and for all that few American voters are craving a moderate “chairman emeritus” who fear-mongers over the national debt and blames both parties equally for the country’s hyper-partisanship.” – Alex Shephard, New Republic
We need party reform, not a third party.
“Neither party does a good job of behaving responsibly. Instead, they seem to be most sensitive to the views of privileged interest groups and activists occupying the ideological fringe. This keeps them from advocating a salable and sensible program in the true public interest. Unfortunately, a third-party challenge is extremely unlikely to break this pattern of irresponsibility. Instead, internal reforms of party structures are the way to go.” – Jay Cost, National Review
Schultz fears radical candidates, but he’s a radical choice too.
“Schultz is afraid Democrats will nominate someone radical, but what he’s proposing, of course, is pretty radical, too. There are lots of hurdles to an independent bid for the president. And there are reasons why George Washington, the country’s first president, was the first and only ‘independent’ to serve as president.” – Domenico Montanaro, NPR
We don’t need another egotistical billionaire.
“Just what we need, another ego-crazed billionaire with zero experience in government who thinks he is destined to be president. What could go wrong? … The anti-Trump majority of Democrats, independents and sensible Republicans must let Schultz know, in no uncertain terms, that this is no time for such foolishness. Instead, perhaps, he should angle for a Cabinet post. Or just have a decaf latte and chill.” – Eugene Robinson, Washington Post
“After two years of Donald Trump, do either of these men really think the nation is yearning for another wealthy businessman in the White House? I realize that this idea of ‘running the country like a business’ has been a popular trope for many years, but one might have thought the current disastrous experiment would have provided considerable evidence of what a fatuous idea that is.” – Heather Digby Parton, Salon
“As for Schultz, it’s true that independent and third-party presidential candidates usually fail to get traction. Maybe he disappears quickly from view, or maybe he makes an impact on the campaign trail. As a wealthy outsider and something of a business celebrity, he’ll get media attention and ceaselessly remind all of us that he isn’t a career pol. So let’s not rule out an astonishing upset by the cappuccino kid. Remember 2016.” – Editorial, Chicago Tribune
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