Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Ends Presidential Bid Nobody Knew Existed
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is ending a Presidential bid nobody knew existed.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has announced that he is abandoning a race for President that I’m sure most people didn’t realize was still going on:
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz formally abandoned his pursuit of an independent campaign for president Friday, telling his supporters in a letter that he found it tougher than he expected to capture the attention of moderate voters and that he didn’t want to risk reelecting President Trump.
Schultz’s decision, after spending months away from public life because of health issues, will come as a relief to Democratic leaders, who feared an independent candidacy by a self-funded billionaire would hobble their eventual nominee. Despite growing frustration with the country’s politics, his aborted run serves as a cautionary tale about the resiliency of the country’s two-party political system.
In a three-page letter to supporters Schultz outlined his reasons for abandoning his presidential bid and sketched his plans for the future. Moderate voters, who he had hoped would have been his constituency, “has largely tuned out of political life,” he wrote, and many other potential supporters would not back him because of their concern that he would aide Trump’s reelection.
The calendar also worked against his ambitions, complicating Schultz’s commitment to withdraw his candidacy before a general election if a centrist like former vice president Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination.
“If I went forward, there is a risk that my name would appear on ballots even if a moderate Democrat wins the nomination, and that is not a risk I am willing to take,” he wrote.
His campaign was premised on the notion that a large, moderate plurality in the country felt abandoned by the Republican and Democratic shift toward angrier, more partisan politics and more extreme positions. He also assumed that it was likely a “far left” candidate would capture the Democratic nomination.
“Eighty-four percent of Americans do not consider themselves far right or far left,” Schultz wrote to supporters Friday. “Among them are an exhausted majority who want common sense, collaborative and truthful government.“
Nine months after he publicly floated the idea of running, Schultz conceded that reaching that “exhausted majority” had proved difficult.
In the first weeks of his effort, which coincided with a national book tour, Schultz received broad media coverage, but struggled to turn that attention into a devoted following. He also juggled a fierce backlash from Democrats.
“Here is what is going to happen: He is going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and he is going to get into September or October of 2020, and he is going to realize he can’t win,” Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, predicted. “He is going to endorse the Democrat or he will accidentally elect Donald Trump.”
Trump, meanwhile, seemed to dare Schultz to get into the race. “Howard Schultz doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to run for President!” Trump tweeted after the “60 Minutes” announcement.
In his letter, Schultz alluded to those challenges, lamenting that “extreme voices currently dominate the national dialogue, often with a vitriol that crowds out and discourages thoughtful discussions.”
Schultz also noted that he has been recuperating from three recent back surgeries that have prevented him from touring the country.
His letter announcing his decision not to run was tinged with an irony: Schultz maintained that the window for a moderate, reasoned third-party candidate was wide open. But he could not figure out how to grab and hold voters’ attention in an electoral cycle dominated by angry, partisan voices.
“We don’t have to look far to see proof that empathy, respect and civility run deep,” he wrote. “But not in Washington D.C.”
As he prepared for a campaign, Schultz hired a number of experienced political professionals, including Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign manager; Bill Burton, a former top aide to Obama; and pollster Greg Strimple.
He also put on retainer a team that was planning a 50-state effort to get his name on the presidential ballot in 2020.
Schultz repeatedly brushed off criticism that his presidential run was driven by vanity, insisting that he would withdraw from the race if he risked reelecting Trump.
“Trump must not serve a second term,” he said in February. “As I explore whether to run for office, I will do so with the conviction that my final decision must not make his reelection a possibility. . . . No one wants Donald Trump fired more than I.”
You can read Schultz’s letter on the website he had been using for his exploratory Presidential bid.
Schultz first began pushing the idea of running for President as far back as November, Rather than running as a Republican challenger to President Trump or as a candidate for the Democratic nomination, Schultz said he was considering mounting an independent bid for office. In this respect, he was talking about roughly the same strategy that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in 2012. Bloomberg, of course, ultimately didn’t run for office back then and he decided against running as a Democrat in this cycle.
After an initial period of at least some media interest, as well as Schultz hiring several mostly formerly Republican political advisers, Schultz seemed to fade into the background. The last time he was mentioned here on OTB was back in February, and in May it was being reported that the former CEO was delaying any decision about running based in no small part on the apparent success of Joe Biden in the race for the Democratic nomination. In June, Schultz said that back surgery he’d had earlier this year was also delaying any decision he might make about running. In any case, Schultz had largely become a non-factor in the 2016 race and his decision today comes as no real surprise.