Billionaire businessman and former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz has delayed his decision on whether to run for president as an independent as he assesses the possibility of former Vice President Joe Biden capturing the Democratic nomination, FOX Business has learned.
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If Biden, a moderate liberal who is friendly to business, emerged as the likely Democratic nominee, this would be a significant impediment to Schultz running for president since his campaign would focus on similar issues to Biden’s, according to two people with direct knowledge of Schultz’s thinking. And if Biden does survive a Democratic primary without betraying his record as a moderate, it’s unlikely Schultz would mount his independent campaign, they add.
According to recent polls, Biden is the front runner, and has opened leads in key early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
As a result, Schultz has also pushed back the timetable of his decision, which was initially expected sometime in the summer, these people add. People close to the billionaire say his decision may now take months, and he might even wait until early 2020 to decide whether to run as he observes the Democratic primary fight, and how Biden competes against his more leftist rivals.
“His decision will be based on how the Democratic field shakes out and seeing how Biden fares,” said one of the people familiar with Schultz’s decision making. “If Joe Biden remains strong, and remains a moderate, there clearly is a much narrower path.”
At least for the near term, Schultz has decided to stop doing televised town halls and traveling to early primary states. His Twitter feed, which remained active for months, has become relatively dormant starting in mid-April. His last active tweet references a visit to Arizona.
On May 6th, Schultz reacted to a “Game of Thrones” reference from a follower who compared him to the oracle-like “Three-Eyed Raven.”
Erin McPike, a spokeswoman for Schultz, confirmed FOX Business’ reporting on the matter. “If Joe Biden were to emerge as the nominee and not a bloodied nominee, still more of a moderate Democrat, I think Howard would probably think twice about (running)” she told Neil Cavuto during a FOX Business appearance Wednesday.
McPike said “We have to see how this race plays out over the summer,” adding “right now” the odds are that Schultz will run as an independent.
People close to Schultz say the former CEO who has never run for office in the past recently has been keeping a low profile in part because of back surgery. He is also paying close attention to the burgeoning field of Democratic candidates entering the race, and whether far left candidates like Socialist Vermont senator Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren could win the nomination, which will all but certain lead him to join the race as an independent.
One additional factor: Schultz may be weighing the cut-throat nature of a campaign. As FOX Business reported in February, Schultz was “freaked out” by the early Democratic backlash he received while promoting a potential presidential run.
Schultz, a long-time Democrat, is worth an estimated $3.7 billion, according to Forbes. During his years at Starbucks, he earned the reputation for being one of Corporate America’s most progressive CEOs providing free college tuition assistance and health care benefits to nearly all employees.
His politics have shifted more recently as he has openly considered a 2020 presidential run as an independent—a move that has angered Democratic Party officials because they believe it would help re-elect President Trump.
Schultz is certainly no fan of Trump, who he has said is unfit for office. But it’s his criticism of the Democratic Party that has generated the most controversy, particularly the socialist policies of Sanders and Warren that he believes are unaffordable. These policies include Medicare for all, universal taxpayer-financed college tuition and the Green New Deal.
All of which is why he is paying close attention to Biden, who is seen as sharing similar moderate views. Biden, a long-time politician as the senator from Delaware, and vice president for Barack Obama, has high name recognition among voters, a reason attributed to his early lead according to polls.
But Schultz advisers believe this early lead could wither over time, as party activists particularly begin to attack his record as a business-friendly liberal willing to compromise with Republicans to pass legislation (his home state of Delaware is the home of some major banks and big companies; the Chancery Court, which adjudicates corporate disputes, is located there as well).
Some Democratic political advisers aren’t so certain Biden will wilt or give up his more moderate agenda. They say mainstream Democratic voters, mainly African Americans, Latinos and Blue-Collar Whites, are more moderate than the progressives who often dominate the cable news circuit and social media pushing vast expansion of government and much higher taxes.
And if Biden stays the moderate course – he has recently sparred with far-left superstar New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, over climate-change policy, he will be tough to beat for the nomination and emerge as the candidate best suited to challenge President Trump in 2020, they say.
It also means there is little room for an independent like Schultz in the race, his own advisers concede.
“Biden is the kindler gentler Democrat who fits the rest of the country, and Schultz knows that,” said Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf . “This is a big if, but if he can beat back the Sanders wing, and wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, he will win the nomination.”