Howard Schultz argues his case for a possible 2020 bid: "The idea of a third choice will resonate"

Schultz argues that an independent centrist "like me" could be the one who defeats President Donald Trump in 2020

Published January 29, 2019 11:43AM (EST)

Howard Schultz (Getty/Johannes Eisele)
Howard Schultz (Getty/Johannes Eisele)

Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, is continuing to make the case for a possible bid for president in 2020 as a "centrist independent," despite the criticism and backlash that followed the announcement that he is considering whether to mount a third-party candidacy.

In a USA Today op-ed published Tuesday, Schultz appears to ignore any concern that a potential third-party candidacy would help re-elect President Donald Trump, as he argues that a candidate "like me" could, in fact, be the one to prevent the commander-in-chief from winning a second term in the White House.

"Today, I ask you to join me in imagining a better America," Schultz wrote. "Becoming better begins by repairing our broken two-party system, which is why I am seriously considering running for president of the United States as a centrist independent."

"I will spend the next few months deciding by traveling the country and listening to my fellow Americans," he continued. "I already believe that the idea of a third choice will resonate."

Schultz has not formally thrown his hat in the ring. In an interview that aired Sunday on "60 Minutes," he said he was "thinking of running for president" as a centrist independent because both the Republican and the Democratic Parties are "consistently not doing what's necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged every single day in revenge politics." Schultz, who describes himself as a "lifelong Democrat," cited the mounting national debt as a "reckless example not only of Republicans, but Democrats as well, as a reckless failure of their constitutional responsibility."

Schultz stepped down as chairman and CEO of Starbucks last year, and said at the time that he was exploring what he could do to best serve America. If he enters the 2020 race, he will join what is expected to be a very crowded list of candidates that already includes California Sen. Kamala HarrisHawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro. In addition, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have noted their Oval Office ambitions. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who fell short in his campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race during the 2018 midterm election cycle, have also hinted that they are weighing a White House bids — and these names are far from the complete list.

Several Democrats have expressed concern over Schultz's potential third-party presidential campaign, including Castro. He told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday that he is concerned that a Schultz candidacy would "provide Donald Trump with the best hope of getting re-elected" because the former Starbucks CEO could siphon off votes from the Democratic nominee. Castro said he does not think "that would be in the best interest of our country."

"I would suggest to Mr. Schultz to truly think about the negative impact that that might make," Castro added.

Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, had far more blunt words for Schultz, tweeting "vanity projects that help destroy democracy are disgusting."

"If he enters the race, I will start a Starbucks boycott because I'm not giving a penny that will end up in the election coffers of a guy who will help Trump win," she added.

Additionally, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire financier and former Republican New York mayor who himself is considering running for president in 2020 as a Democrat, said that any third-party candidate would "split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President" in 2020.

"Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the electoral college system, there is no way an independent can win," Bloomberg tweeted on Monday. "That is truer today than ever before."

By Shira Tarlo

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