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.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Teve says:

    Claiming to be a liberal and then attacking Democrats harder than Republicans turns out not to attract any support. HOOCOODANODE!

    This was just another example of ‘I’m a white guy with a billion dollars and nobody’s told me no in a decade which must mean I’m brilliant and everybody needs to hear my opinions on shit!’

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Speaking of stealth candidacies, I think Joe Sestak, who is infinitely more credible than Schultz, is still running.

  3. Kylopod says:

    What was most noticeable about his pseudo-candidacy was its total vapidity. Bloomberg, love or hate him, has actual ideas. Schultz’s views are just a string of vague centrist slogans. He exemplifies the class that Krugman calls the Very Serious People, an elite circle-jerk that, employing the middle-ground fallacy, essentially defines itself as being intrinsically more reasonable than those on the left or the right. You don’t have to do much thinking when you believe you’re simply thoughtful by definition. They believe they’re a silent majority despite the total lack of evidence that their mix of cultural liberalism and fiscal conservatism is widely popular (in fact the exact opposite combination is far more widespread). It is ironic that he thinks candidates like Warren and Sanders are the pie-in-the-sky fantasists–a criticism that may not be entirely without merit, but which is coming from someone with no real credibility to be making that argument beyond belonging to a clique that’s constantly telling its members they’re the only ones grounded in reality.

  4. Tyrell says:

    Schultz has some good ideas and a proven track record. I read his biography: a self made man. I was shocked at some of the attacks on him in his campaign*. He is realistic and practical. His style is not bombastic or corrosive.
    Howard is not subject to the flights of fancy or some “tip toe through the tulips” thinking that seem to be the in thing with many of the candidates. Those who have their feet on the ground are getting no attention. Schultz wrote in one of his books that he did not have a lot money, but what he had was his mother’s strong belief in America.
    “84% of Americans do not consider themselves far left or far right”
    That right there is the open door for a third party. Many Democrats and Republicans feel left out, that the parties they knew have moved to the fringe.
    *Schultz was for being a billionaire, and for saying there was no difference in the two parties. “Tweedle dee and tweedle dum”

  5. Teve says:

    @Kylopod: he was Tom Friedman’s ideal candidate.

    That just reminded me I haven’t heard from Tom Friedman in what seems like forever. Good.

  6. al Ameda says:


    * Schultz was for being a billionaire, and for saying there was no difference in the two parties. “Tweedle dee and tweedle dum”

    That’s lazy thinking, dangerous thinking.

    I know people who say there is no difference – which is exactly why Republicans were able to engineer what was basically a hostile radical takeover of the country.

    Does anyone still believe that there is no difference? Honestly believe that Hillary Clinton would have: Nominated the same people to the Supreme Court that Trump did; nominated the same people to the various federal courts around the country that Trump did; appoint the same people to important cabinet posts; eviscerate clean air and clean water regulations; abrogate agreements with long time allies? Etc.? Really?

  7. Gustopher says:

    @al Ameda: Both parties represent the mammals, and are filled with mammals. If you’re waiting for the lizard people, and their “let’s eat all the talking mammals” policy, then yes, both major parties are the same.

  8. Ken_L says:

    People may have forgotten how much concern Schultz’s possible campaign caused in liberal ranks earlier this year. There was absolutely no evidence to support the fears expressed, but nevertheless you would have thought Schultz was going to do a Perot and hand the election to Trump. It demonstrated the PTSD that continues to affect the Democratic Party in the wake of November 2016, and helps explain why many are so reluctant to look to anybody but Biden because he’s “electable” … i.e. doesn’t upset anyone too much.

  9. Kylopod says:


    but nevertheless you would have thought Schultz was going to do a Perot and hand the election to Trump.

    The myth that never dies.

    There was absolutely no evidence to support the fears expressed

    How so? Quite unlike with Perot, polls did suggest Schultz had a potential spoiler effect. The only question was whether Schultz would follow through with his threat. Thankfully, he didn’t. But you’ve presented no explanation for why a Schultz candidacy would have been a nothing-burger if it had happened. As the 2000 election demonstrated, a third-party candidate with even a relatively small percentage of the vote can have an impact.

    And we’re not exactly in the clear even now. What if some other narcissistic billionaire (say, Mark Cuban) steps forward? It’s a nontrivial possibility you can’t simply dismiss.