Democrats urge ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to ditch 'spoiler' presidential bid

Image: Howard Schultz
Then-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting in Seattle on March 22, 2017. Copyright Elaine Thompson AP file
By Allan Smith with NBC News Politics
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"The stakes couldn't be higher," one Bloomberg aide tweeted. "We can not afford the risk of spoiler politics that result in Trump's re-election."


Democrats were out in full force on Sunday blasting the idea of an independent presidential bid by longtime Democrat and billionaire businessman Howard Schultz, who said he was "seriously thinking" of doing so.

Julián Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama and a contender for the2020 Democratic presidential nomination, urged the former Starbucks CEO to not pursue such a run.

"I have a concern that if he did run, that, essentially, it would provide Donald Trump with his best hope of getting re-elected," Castro said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, went much further than Castro, tweeting that "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 said.

In a "60 Minutes" interview which aired Sunday, Schultz, who is worth $3.3 billion according to Forbes, said he would seek the presidency as a "centrist independent."

"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," he told CBS's Scott Pelley.

Schultz said he would run as an independent instead of as a Democrat because "we see extremes on both sides." Asked if he was concerned about siphoning votes away from Democrats and assisting Trump in getting re-elected, Schultz said he wants to "see the American people win."

"I don't care if you're a Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Republican," he said. "Bring me your ideas. And I will be an independent person, who will embrace those ideas. Because I am not, in any way, in bed with a party."

Schultz bashed Medicare-for-all, a major policy being embraced by Democrats at the moment. Schultz said the proposal is "as false as the wall."

In an interview with The New York Times, Schultz said he planned to tour the country for the next three months promoting his new book before deciding whether to ultimately run.

Though independent and third-party candidates have affected past presidential races, none have won the presidency in modern times.

"I have seen enough data over many years to know that anyone running for POTUS as an independent will split the anti-incumbent, anti-Trump vote," Howard Wolfson, an aide to possible 2020 presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, tweeted. "The stakes couldn't be higher. We can not afford the risk of spoiler politics that result in Trump's re-election."

Not all Democrats agreed on the threat Schultz posed. Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, himself a possible 2020 candidate, tweeted that he "could care less" if Schultz sought the presidency via an independent bid.

"If we do this right, our Democratic ideas and nominee will unite most Americans and replace @realDonaldTrump," he tweeted. "Let's focus on doing that."

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