Starbucks founder and former CEO Howard Schultz planted himself center stage for the opening rounds of the 2020 race for the White House Sunday, telling ’60 Minutes’ that he was seriously considering a run for the presidency—as an independent candidate.
Chief Executive Editor-At-Large Jeffery Sonnenfeld says Schultz is immensely qualified for the job—but it would take a lot of things going right for him to win. “He won’t be going down easily with the Democratic Party,” Sonnenfeld told CNBC Monday (watch the full video, below). “If he can get that 40% of centrists, that will be the big argument.”
The best scenario for Schultz, says Sonnenfeld, would be a showdown between President Trump and a democratic socialist like Elizabeth Warren. If that happens, then Schultz “will run away with it.”
The biggest obstacle? Joe Biden as the Democrat’s candidate. Like Schultz, Biden has a blue-collar background, lots of name recognition, and is a far more centrist candidate than someone like Warren. If Biden runs, “it’s a lot more complicated,” says Sonnenfeld. “I don’t think Joe Biden and Howard Schultz want to run against each other. I know Joe Biden quite well and he’s quite serious about getting in here and this definitely complicates it.”
Back in June, Sonnenfeld detailed why he thought Schultz would be a fit for the White House in a column for Chief Executive, writing that “Donald Trump borrowed the core iconography of mythic American business figures, whereas Howard Schultz actually models” the needed qualities.
Asked by CNBC what he thinks of Schultz as a candidate, Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic, says he loves the idea. “Howard is a truly authentic leader,” says George, “and I think he’s going to be a truly important voice on issues that need to be heard in our country.
“If you get an Elizabeth Warren versus a Donald Trump, he looks awfully good as an independent because he’s a fiscal conservative who’s socially liberal, something we haven’t had in 20 years.”