WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Possible presidential contender Howard Schultz stopped in Indiana as he considers whether to take on President Donald Trump in 2020. The former Starbucks CEO spoke Thursday afternoon at Purdue University.
Schultz is considering running as a self-described “centrist independent.” His message at Purdue is that Americans deserve better than the current political climate.
“I am considering a run because members of both parties are not yet doing the job they were elected to do,” said Schultz to the several hundred people gathered inside Purdue’s Fowler Hall.
To hear Schultz tell it, the American people are caught in the middle of an ugly political tug of war with neither side doing much good.
“The American people are exhausted by it,” said Schultz. “They want and deserve something new and something better.”
In his first major speech since announcing that he’s exploring an independent run for the White House, the billionaire former CEO laid out his case for why America has to move beyond a two-party system.
“Almost two-thirds of American voters agree that a two-party system, our two-party system, is broken and it’s time for a centrist candidate, not affiliated with either party, to be president,” said Schultz.
Democrats are already unhappy. On Wednesday, national DNC Chairman Tom Perez told the INFocus team that a Schultz run could keep President Trump in the White House.
“I think a vote for Howard Schultz as an independent, is a vote for Donald Trump,” said Perez. “I think that’s very clear.”
After his Purdue event, Schultz responded directly to Perez’s criticism.
“I think it’s a false narrative,” said Schultz. “Many more Republicans I think are going to be looking for a home, lifelong Republicans, if they have a choice.”
But some political experts think it’s just too early to look at Schultz as a spoiler for either side.
“The jury is still very much out on whether he might take disproportionally from one party or another,” said James McCann, a professor of political science at Purdue.
Regardless, McCann said it won’t be an easy path ahead for any independent.
“History shows that most of them never get out of single digits,” said McCann, “and very small single digits.”
But as Schultz made clear at Purdue, what’s most on his mind is the man currently sitting in the Oval Office.
“As I explore whether to run for office, I’ll do so with the conviction that my final decision must not make his [Trump’s] re-election a possibility,” said Schultz.
Schultz said he’s not sure when he’ll actually make up his mind as to whether or not he’s officially running as an independent candidate for the White House. He said he plans to continue talking with voters around the country.