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Schultz has seemed to be moving toward a run for months, with interviews and speeches around the country about the inclusive policies that he says he pioneered while in charge of the company in two stints, totaling 24 years. He also talks about his vision of America, much of it informed by a trip he took to Auschwitz, which he discusses in an emotional story.
In a conversation with Scott Pelley, Schultz called this “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 says, according to CBS promotional material, which did not include the part of the interview in which Pelley asks Schultz about running himself. Other people familiar with the interview relayed his answers about those questions.
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Aides to Schultz did not respond to requests for comment.
“Trump’s strategy has always been divide and conquer, and this plays directly into his hands,” said one Democratic strategist, who was wary of taking on Schultz openly ahead of any announcement. “He’s Ralph Nader without any of Nader’s redeeming qualities. What’s his value proposition for America? Make America like a corporate chain?”
Democrats aren’t the only ones who see Schultz as potentially helping Trump win a second term. Bill Kristol, the Never Trump Republican who is most active both in media appearances and private conversations representing the GOP resistance to the president, said he wouldn’t support an independent run either.
“One reason my colleagues and I are focused on a Republican primary challenge to Trump—apart from the fact that we’re Republicans—is that it doesn’t present any of the problems of inadvertently helping him by being a spoiler,” Kristol wrote in an email.
Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, would run under the theory that the answer to the political division in the country right now is moving away from party politics. There’s little evidence to support that, as people report being more polarized and partisan, devoted to their own party and demonizing the other. For all the prominent Republicans who say they don’t like Trump, the president’s overall approval numbers among voters within his party remain sky high, according to polls. Schultz would have to persuade millions of them to abandon the party to vote for him, while drawing enough Democratic votes away from a party that is energized and excited about taking out the president.
And at 65, he’d have to do that as an older white man who’s never run for office before and has zero national name recognition. There is, however, Schultz’s fortune, estimated at $3.3 billion.