After this week’s CNN town hall, it’s more and more clear that any money Howard Schultz might spend on an independent presidential bid would function as an in-kind campaign contribution to Donald Trump.
Schultz offered few policy specifics during the hour-long session Tuesday night and repeatedly retreated to platitudes when pressed to clarify his position on core issues, including taxes and health care. But to the extent that Schultz did explain his views, they stamped him as a moderate Democrat, tilting toward the party’s center on economics while firmly identifying with its solidifying liberal lean on social and racial issues.
It’s hard to imagine that the mix of perspectives Schultz presented—from opposition to a border wall to support for new limits on gun ownership—will ultimately attract many voters drawn to Trump’s hard-edged racial nationalism. That means that if Schultz runs and his views become better known, he’s likely to draw mostly from the pool of voters discontented with Trump, not the president’s previous supporters.
Though Schultz repeated again Tuesday that he doesn’t intend to do anything to help Trump get reelected, almost everything else he said underscored the likelihood that he would do exactly that. “The fact that he’s doing this is potentially catastrophic,” says Matt Bennett, the executive vice president for public affairs at the centrist Democratic group Third Way. “Republicans are very unlikely to vote for him in this tribal moment. The only votes he would get would come at the expense of our nominee. And if he peels away some Democrats and independents, he could reelect Trump.”