SEATTLE — The most powerful super PAC in Democratic politics is promising to make former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz “a target” if he launches an independent presidential bid.
Democrats across the political spectrum lashed out at the billionaire businessman on Monday after he teased the prospect of an independent 2020 bid, a move Democrats fear would split their vote and all but ensure President Donald Trump’s re-election.
“If Schultz entered the race as an independent, we would consider him a target… We would do everything we can to ensure that his candidacy is unsuccessful,” said Patrick McHugh, executive director of Priorities USA. The super PAC spent nearly $200 million in the 2016 presidential contest, much of it to support Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is that I don’t think Americans are looking for another selfish billionaire to enter the race.”
Schultz Talks About Bid to ’60 Minutes’
Democrats conceded that they had few tools to dissuade Schultz from launching an independent campaign — as he told “60 Minutes” he was considering — though many were skeptical that he would actually follow through. No presidential candidate in the modern era has run a successful independent campaign.
The question I think we all should be asking ourselves is: at this time in America when there’s so much evidence that our political system is broken – that both parties at the extreme are not representing the silent majority of the American people – isn’t there a better way? pic.twitter.com/Gy1wf1cf8F
— Howard Schultz (@HowardSchultz) January 28, 2019
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered Schultz a direct message based on his own experience.
“The data was very clear and very consistent. Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the electoral college system, there is no way an independent can win. That is truer today than ever before,” Bloomberg, who is considering a Democratic 2020 bid, said in a statement.
He continued: “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.”
Trump: Schultz Doesn’t Have ‘Guts’ to Run
Tina Podlodowski, the Democratic chairwoman in Washington state, where Schultz has lived for decades, also blasted the potential of an independent campaign.
“Howard, if you want to run for President, run as a Democrat,” she said in a statement. “If you want to rely on your money to get elected instead of talking with voters, run as a Republican. But a billionaire buying his way out of the entire primary process does not strengthen democracy; it only makes it more likely that our democracy will be further strained under another four years of President Donald Trump.”
Trump himself weighed in on Monday, tweeting that Schultz “doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to run for President!”
Howard Schultz doesn’t have the “guts” to run for President! Watched him on @60Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the “smartest person.” Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
Schultz indirectly addressed the uproar in a video posted on social media Monday.
“At this time in America when there’s so much evidence that our political system is broken — that both parties at the extreme are not representing the silent majority of the American people — isn’t there a better way?” Schultz said, noting that he’d be traveling the country in the coming weeks and months meeting with voters.
“And what better expression of our democracy than to give the American people a choice that they deserve.”
Starbucks Tycoon Launches Book Tour
The 65-year-old Seattle billionaire launched a tour Monday to promote his latest book, “From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America.” He has stops this week in New York; Tempe, Arizona; Seattle; and San Francisco — but no dates listed for the early voting states of Iowa or New Hampshire.
He’s been mentioned as a potential candidate many times before, and he’s done little to quell speculation about his presidential ambitions since saying when he retired from Starbucks last June that his future could include “public service.”
On paper, Schultz offers a number of qualities that might appeal to voters. He grew up in public housing in New York City’s Brooklyn borough and became the first person in his family to graduate from college.
He took over Starbucks when it sold only coffee beans, not cups — it had 11 stores and fewer than 100 employees at the time — and grew it into a global behemoth that now has close to 30,000 stores in 78 countries. Along the way, he adopted an ethos of corporate responsibility, making Starbucks one of the earliest U.S. companies to offer stock options and health insurance even to part-time employees, and more recently partnering with Arizona State University to cover tuition for workers who want to earn their bachelor’s degree online.
He’s waded into contentious social issues. In 2013, Starbucks asked customers not to bring guns into stores following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and in 2015, Schultz drew anger and ridicule after he urged baristas to write “Race Together” on cups to spark conversations amid tension over police shootings of black men. Last year, after two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a business meeting, Starbucks closed 8,000 U.S. stores early so employees could take anti-bias training.