Daddy Starbucks 2020?

A week or so ago, Ed pointed out that Starbucks founder Howard Schultz was embarking on a book tour that might have signaled an interest in a presidential run. Schultz has never been one to play things particularly shy or cagey, so he decided to clarify things with an appearance on 60 Minutes last night. He’s not officially announcing the formation of an exploratory committee yet, but he’s definitely interested in running. Given how many other Democrats have already announced, that might not have been much of a headline, but Schultz threw a twist into the mix which has members of his own party getting nervous. If he does it, he plans on running as an independent candidate. (CBS News)

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says he’s considering running for president as an independent, telling “60 Minutes” he might jump into the race without party backing.

“I am seriously thinking of running for president,” Schultz told correspondent Scott Pelley in an interview airing Sunday. “I will run as a centrist independent, outside of the two-party system. We’re living at a most fragile time, not only the fact that this president is not qualified to be the president, but the fact that both 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,” said his potential decision to launch an independent bid for the White House, rather than seek the Democratic Party’s nomination, is rooted in his belief that both major parties have embraced fringe elements and failed to address the country’s growing debt.

The news that he might run a third-party bid had liberal heads exploding immediately. Frank Luntz was less than subtle in his immediate reaction.

Few people have the capacity to attract a significant number of votes as an independent in a national election, but Schultz has the money to make quite a splash. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that the approval numbers for both major parties aren’t exactly stellar these days. (Gallup has both the Democrats and the Republicans underwater as of last September.) Also, independent voters now outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in nine states, including Iowa and New Hampshire.

Despite the terrible approval ratings that Donald Trump is ringing up on the national level, the 2020 election is still almost certainly going to come down to a relatively small margin in the usual swing states. The meaning for Democrats is clear on this point. If Schultz can attract a following among even a small subset of Democrats and a decent number of independents, he could siphon off sufficient votes to flip a bunch of states that Democrats probably have a good shot at carrying into Trump’s column.

Of course, it might not be smooth sailing for Schultz. He hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the left over the years. He’s not even popular back home since he “sold out Seattle” by buying and then losing their NBA franchise. Also, in his interview last night, one of the first campaign talking points he trotted out was the nation’s massive debt load and the need to get spending under control. That probably loses 90% of the Democrats right out of the gate. And is the party really in the mood to flock to another elderly, straight, white, male billionaire?

He’ll have to make a decision before too long if he plans to get a national campaign infrastructure in place in time for the heat of the battle. If you happen to be either a fan of Donald Trump or at least an opponent of giving the White House back to the Democrats next year, you might have a new slogan to try out. Run Howard, Run.