The Silence of the Lattés: Whatever happened to Howard Schultz?

Maybe Joe Biden’s footprint in the 2020 campaign is bigger than we predicted. Ever since the former veep jumped into the race, another candidate has become very, very silent. The Daily Beast wonders why we’ve heard more about a Starbucks cup on the Game of Thrones set than we have about former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who spent a lot of time raising his political profile before mid-April.

Schultz’ spokesperson says that the independent candidate has taken some time off after back surgery, which Sam Stein and Gideon Resnick relate to Rick Perry’s ill-fated 2012 bid. That doesn’t explain why Schultz’ entire effort appears to be on hiatus, though:

He has not made a public appearance since going to Arizona to talk about border security and the economy in late April. He was scheduled to visit Utah and to talk at the NationSwell Summit on Solutions in San Francisco and to tour and appear in conversation at the EarthX Energy Expo in Dallas. But those events were cancelled. …

But Schultz has also dialed down the elements of his campaign prep that don’t actually require public appearances. He has not posted to Facebook or Instagram since April 30. His last missive was on how leaders make decisions “through the lens of personal beliefs” which included a photo of a chess board, a French press, a cup of coffee and a diary with the phrase “success is best when it’s shared” written in black sharpie marker.

According to Facebook’s ad archives, Schultz has not run an ad on the platform since April 23, when his account posted a spot that declared “It’s Time To Un-Partisan.” Since Easter, Schultz has tweeted just twice. The first was to promote an op-ed he wrote on his trip to Arizona. That was on April 29. The second, and last, tweet came on Monday, when he tweeted a winky emoji at someone wondering if he was a character in Game of Thrones, after a cup of Starbucks was mistakenly included in a scene of the popular HBO show.

To quote a reader on Twitter, this looks less like husbanding of resources and more like a “nappuccino.” While the back surgery might explain canceling some personal appearances — Perry must regret not doing the same seven years ago — it doesn’t explain why Schultz’ entire operation went dark just as the Democratic field got more crowded and the infighting more intense. It can’t be a money issue, either; Schultz’s net worth is almost $4 billion, meaning he can afford to float some ad money on his own without worrying about fundraisers during recovery. Especially on Facebook, where advertising costs hardly break the bank.

It’s a weird time to take a break, too, with Biden’s entry into the race. At least on paper, Biden would crowd out Schultz’ attempt to claim the political center and keep disaffected Democrats in the fold. Whether Biden actually has that effect won’t be known for some time, although he’s dominating primary polls at the moment. One would think that Schultz would have kept his hand in the game during this rollout, if for no other reason than to be able to seize the moment if/when Biden starts pandering to progressives.

It’s more likely that Biden’s entry has made Schultz think twice about running. This might be one long nappuccino.