Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says he is seriously considering a White House bid in 2020 as a "centrist independent," but many Democrats are increasingly alarmed that a third-party run could split the anti-incumbent vote and help President Trump to be re-elected.
In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition, Schultz pushed back on that concern, arguing that he could be successful where other independent candidates haven't been by appealing to an increasingly growing center and peeling off Democratic voters put off by the party's progressive leanings.
"I think lifelong Democrats and many, many more lifelong Republicans than Democrats realize are looking for a home," Schultz said. "If there is a choice between President Trump and a progressive liberal-minded person on the Democratic side, it would kill me to see President Trump be re-elected, and I believe that is what would take place."
Schultz repeatedly underscored that his intention would be to stop Trump from winning re-election, saying that "Nobody wants to remove and, in a sense, fire President Trump more than me. I don't believe he was qualified to be president, and how he has disrespected the office is so troubling to me."
The wealthy businessman argued that if he runs, it would be to provide an alternative to American voters who don't align with either major political party, especially if a more liberal candidate such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Democratic nomination.
"I can't think of anything that is a more quintessential expression of our democracy than providing the American people with a choice that doesn't have to be binary between the Republican and the Democrat," Schultz said. "Why should the American people not have the choice of someone who is saying, 'I'm not embedded with either party.' "
Schultz said that if he does decide to run, he "will embrace the best ideas of both parties. And all I want to do is bring the country together. And I know in my heart that our best days are ahead of us, but we must transform the way we're doing our work as elected officials."
But former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — another billionaire who has looked in the past at a White House bid an independent — warned Schultz against it.
"The data was very clear and very consistent. Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the electoral college system, there is no way an independent can win. That is truer today than ever before," Bloomberg, who could run as a Democrat, said in a statement. "In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President. That's a risk I refused to run in 2016 and we can't afford to run it now."
In a tweet Monday morning, the president seemed to be daring Schultz to enter the 2020 presidential race. "Howard Schultz doesn't have the 'guts' to run for President!," Trump posted online.
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