Top Notes – This Week in Presidential Politics

Every week I curate a set of “Top Notes” of media coverage on the 2020 presidential elections. Read it to keep up to date on latest developments.
– Sarah Lyons, Director of Communications, Independent Voting


January 31 – February 6, 2019

Howard Shultz

Steve Shultz (campaign advisor) – “Let’s look at what Howard Schultz has said that set off this frenzy. He said he wants to have a conversation with the American people to see if perhaps, the hour of disruption maybe at hand for our utterly broken political system. And make no mistake about it the brokenness of that political system is what resulted in the election of Donald J. Trump. Are we fated into perpetuity to be in this cycle to be of revenge politics, of self interest, where the American people are not represented, their future is not represented or can we do something better? So, 600 days before the election, he’s asked a question. We decry rightly the illiberalism of Donald Trump, his attacks on the press, his attacks on the rule of law. But what about the illiberalism of people who claim to oppose Trump who shout down people from the public square? It seems that for some the progressive utopia that’s on the horizon is one that will not come about by persuasion but by imposition because you better dare not speak out of line or out of turn, no deviation or you are shouted down. And by the way, the people who are doing the shouting almost universally are the people who said Joe Biden shouldn’t run because it was Hillary Clinton’s turn. And they put their thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders because he couldn’t win. And they guaranteed us that Donald Trump would never be elected.”  (MSNBC, 1/31/19)

Debate Inclusion – In 2016, the reigning party duopoly offered the public two candidates with combined negative ratings at election time of 113%. Clearly, the political system is not working, and Americans are growing more alienated and sour on their government. A solution is within reach — which is why those of us with faith that our democracy can be reinvigorated are watching the J. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse with such anticipation and optimism. (CNN, 1/29/19)

  • New internal polling from former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shows him pulling about 17 percent of the vote in hypothetical presidential matchups between President Trump and either Democrat Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren. Schulz wins about 17 percent in each of the two ballot tests, new internal polling provided first to “Meet the Press” shows. In both, Trump leads the Democrat by a margin of 33 percent to 32 percent. Even though Schultz trails both candidates, him sitting above 15 percent is important because that’s historically been the threshold candidates need to hit to be included in general election debates. The result comes after Schultz has taken a beating from Democrats concerned he may divert votes from their nominee. (NBC, 1/3/19)

Upcoming Events

  • Undaunted by Democratic attacks, former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz plans to deliver a major policy address at Purdue University on Thursday to further explain his vision for an independent presidential campaign that would take aim at the country’s two-party political system.

Internal Polling – Schultz pollster Greg Strimple released internal data Sunday that he argued was evidence of real traction for an independent campaign by Schultz. The numbers suggest Schultz is currently far from winning a plurality of the three-way vote in a general election but could still qualify for the general election debates in the fall of 2020, which have a 15 percent national polling threshold. “The American people understand what the elites do not — after years of ideological extremism, extreme partisanship, government dysfunction and failure to act to advance their needs — the American people are disillusioned with the corrupted two-party system and are looking for an alternative,” Strimple wrote in the polling memo. “Despite the torrent of skepticism from Twitter, Washington, D.C., the political punditocracy, and partisan elites, the American people reacted positively to the idea that the two-party system is broken and it’s time.” (WaPo, 2/4/19)

External Polling – A new Politico/Morning Consult poll effectively crushes any forlorn hope that Schultz and Schmidt might damage Trump’s chances for re-election in the same way Ross Perot damaged George H.W. Bush’s chances in 1992. On the contrary, the poll indicates that Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans (or former Republicans) are more likely than Republican Trump supporters to vote for a third-party candidate like Howard Schultz. Nearly a third of Democrats in the survey, 31 percent, said they would consider a third-party candidate, compared with 25 percent of Republicans. This suggests that if Schultz is on the ballot on Election Day 2020, he’d be likely to strip more votes from the Democratic nominee than from Trump. In an era when elections are decided by a few points or less, a nudge by Schultz might well be enough to re-elect Donald Trump. Toss more Russian hacking and propaganda onto the blaze and suddenly a repeat of 2016, or worse, could be in our not-too-distant futures. (Salon, 2/5/19)

PRO Shultz

  • Allan Murray, President of Fortune magazine – “Journalist Peter Goodman tweeted: ‘If there is a single person on planet earth who thinks Howard Schultz running for President is wonderful, they are keeping it well hidden.’ So let me step forward: I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s a good idea because someone needs to challenge the two-party stranglehold on American politics. America’s biggest business competitiveness problem is its broken political system. As Harvard business professor Michael Porter and Katherine Gehl argued in this piece in Fortune, the two parties act like a classic duopoly, serving their own needs but not those of the country.” (Fortune, 1/31/19)
  • Greg Orman / Neal Simon – (Full oped for WSJ below).
  • Pittsburg Post Gazette Editorial Board – Let Mr. Schultz go to the country and make his case. And let the people, not the elites, decide. The notion of someone in the center, who is not Donald Trump and also not Ms. Harris or Bernie Sanders or Liz Warren, may have a lot of appeal for a lot of Americans, especially disenchanted Republicans and independents. The “spoiler” argument, which is as old as political entitlement and opportunism, is really undemocratic and un-American. It is undemocratic because, in a democracy, every candidate “spoils” it for every other candidate running. That’s the idea. It is un-American because no one is entitled to office, any office, or to any block of voters. And no one is entitled to limit another citizen’s choices. (Post-Gazette, 2/3/19)
  • Letter to Editor- As a former Hawaii alternate delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention, I agree completely with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s assessment that America is looking for more choices in a presidential election. For too long, the American people have been misled into a fantasy that third party candidates sabotage the chances of unseating an unpopular candidate. The reality is that the failure or success of any candidate rests exclusively on the strength of their ideas and the likability of their party. Democrats and Republicans alike cry “Ross Perot!” as a stab-in-the-back legend to keep voters stuck in a paradigm of left vs. right. Schultz, however, understands that this two-party system makes as much sense as coffee shops bitterly dividing into a competition of decaf vs. regular. (USA Today, 1/3/19)
  • Iowa opinion piece– Howard Schultz should be welcomed to Iowa…Frankly, at this time of deep partisan divide, we believe value exists for Americans in hearing more voices from the middle who challenge both Democrats and Republicans. If nothing else, in our view, an independent candidacy would add an interesting twist to the 2020 presidential election. We aren’t saying Schultz is our candidate, we’re simply saying no one should slam the door in his face and attempt to silence him because he isn’t toeing a line. America’s election for president doesn’t, or shouldn’t, belong only to the two dominant political parties. (Sioux City Journal, 2/6/19)
  • Frank Donatelli – The odds are strongly against an independent winning the White House. That is typically because major parties are smart enough to co-opt their issues. But what if the parties stubbornly cling to more familiar territory? The major parties have retreated into comfortable enclaves of left and right. Our politics does not offer a proper reward structure for building successful coalitions that include independent and centrist voters, who are forced to choose from what the major parties are offering. What if a Schultz candidacy forced the major parties to broaden their appeal? Would we reduce snark and sound bite campaigning? Would the parties address broader issues, not narrow, partisan concerns?  If so, that would be good. If not, maybe Schultz could win. That might be good too. Frank Donatelli served as assistant for political affairs to President Ronald Reagan and as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain. (Detroit News, 2/4/19)


  • Axelrod – “I think it’s a gift for Donald Trump. I agree with that analysis. All you have to do is look at the last election and how Independent candidates took just enough from Hillary Clinton in Michigan and perhaps Wisconsin to tip those states. I think Schultz has the ability to do much more damage to the Democratic nominee, primarily because he’ll put his personal wealth behind it. (New Yorker, 2/2/19)
  • Jay Inslee – Come into the pool and compete as a Democrat. The only possibly result is to help Trump. (CBSN, 1/20/19)
  • Michael Moore – Speaking on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” leftist propagandist Michael Moore has called for a boycott on the coffee chain until Schultz steps down (Daily Wire, 2/1/19)
  • Bloomberg – Bloomberg’s assumption is that an independent would divide the vote for change. But why couldn’t Mr. Schultz appeal to independents and Republicans who voted reluctantly for Mr. Trump but are put off by the constant chaos of his governing style? Mr. Bloomberg is right that an independent probably can’t win the presidential race. But Mr. Schultz’s ultimate appeal would depend on how he campaigned and which issues he stressed. (WSJ, 1/29/19)
  • Adam Parkhomenko, the founder of activist group Ready for Hillary and a Clinton campaign staffer, has launched the unequivocally named website, com, to make sure Schultz gets to meet more indignant hecklers denouncing his obscene financial success and selfish plans to ruin the Democrats’ hopes of dethroning Trump. (Daily Wire, 1/30/19)

Booker – Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., officially launched his 2020 presidential campaign Friday, invoking a message of economic populism and racial justice along with a veiled swipe at President Donald Trump’s leadership. The 49-year-old former mayor of Newark, New Jersey. who joined a fast-growing field of hopefuls vying for a White House run, released a video and sent an email to supporters announcing his decision. “I believe that we can build a country where no one is forgotten, no one is left behind; where parents can put food on the table; where there are good paying jobs with good benefits in every neighborhood; where our criminal justice system keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins; where we see the faces of our leaders on television and feel pride, not shame,” Booker said. He plans to travel to the early states of Iowa and South Carolina next week and New Hampshire over President’s Day weekend. Booker gave the keynote address at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Fall Gala in October. (NBC, 2/1/19)

Harris – Sen. Kamala Harris …presidential launch last month included raising $1.5 million in the first the day, drawing a crowd of 22,000 to her opening speech in her hometown of Oakland, and appearing for a ratings-busting town hall on CNN, announced Tuesday that she’ll visit all four early states later this month. Harris’ travel over the final two weeks of February will first take her back to South Carolina, a state she’s aggressively targeting as part of what her campaign strategists have dubbed “the SEC primary meets the West Coast offense” — a reference both to the SEC college athletic conference and Harris’ focus on Nevada and her delegate-rich home state of California. Harris will then make two-day swings through New Hampshire (Feb. 18-19) and Iowa (Feb. 23-24), where she appeared in the CNN town hall, before finishing up the early-state blitz in Nevada (Feb. 28-March 1). Her campaign did not release details about the stops. (Politico, 2/5/19)

O’Rourke – During a taped interview for Winfrey’s SuperSoul Conversations, set to premiere Feb. 16, the Texas Democrat edged closer to becoming a 2020 presidential candidate. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke will decide whether to run for president “before the end of this month,” he told Oprah Winfrey in an interview Tuesday. “We want to play as great a role as possible making sure that this country lives up to our expectations — to the promise, to the potential that we all know her to have,” the Texas Democrat said. Then, after telling Winfrey he has been “thinking about running for president,” he said, “I’ve got to tell you, and you can tell, I’m so excited at the prospect of being able to play that role.” (CNN, 2/5/19)

Klobuchar – Plans a “big announcement” on Sunday, boosting the speculation that she will join the growing pool of presidential hopefuls. “I’m making a big announcement on Sunday,” Klobuchar said on Twitter. In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, she said she’d make clear her decision on whether or not to run for president. The announcement is planned for Boom Island in Minneapolis, a park overlooking the Mississippi River. (Bloomberg, 2/5/19)

Weld – The former governor of Massachusetts and the Libertarian Party’s 2016 nominee for vice president, has rejoined the Republican Party that made him a rising political star. Gale McHugo, Canton’s assistant town clerk, said Weld, 73, came in Jan. 17 and changed his party affiliation from Libertarian to Republican with a form process that took “less than a minute. It was very matter of fact and the same thing we would do for any voter. (Boston Herald, 2/6/19)

New Hampshire – .John Delaney will open his Manchester campaign office next Monday, Feb 11th, followed by two days of campaigning + several issue-based roundtable events around the state.

Greg Orman & Neil Simon

Thirty seconds into Howard Schultz’s first campaign event last Monday in New York City, one attendee yelled “Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical, billionaire a—h—!” The shouter was joined by thousands of vitriolic posts on social media. The mainstream media, which thrives on tribal warfare, added fuel to the fire, urging Mr. Schultz not to run for president…

All this happened before anything was known about Mr. Schultz’s positions or vision for the U.S. Instead, Democrats attacked him for potentially “spoiling” the 2020 election. The media responded in kind, focusing on the horse race, not the horse.

Mr. Schultz has every right to run, and every right to run outside the two major parties. America’s Founding Fathers wanted a republic without political parties. They feared that one day Americans might put party above country, and their fears have come true.

The Democrats attacking Mr. Schultz act as if only Republicans have failed the country. Yet in 2009 Democrats held the presidency, a large House majority and, for a time, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. But Democrats didn’t provide the Dreamers a path to citizenship and did nothing to reduce the debt or control prescription-drug prices.

Eighty-one percent of voters are now dissatisfied or angry with Washington. Almost the only political statement on which Americans can agree is that the government, whether in Republican or Democratic hands, is failing.

Americans consistently say they want a third option. But in 2016 many felt forced to choose the lesser of two evils. It’s easy to imagine a similar situation in 2020.

People want their votes to matter. That’s why independent and third-party presidential candidates usually underperform. But in 2016 an average of 76 million Americans tuned in to each of the three general-election debates. If Mr. Schultz is the clear winner on stage in 2020, throw the rulebook for independent candidates out the window. With a credible and well-funded campaign, Mr. Schultz just might assure Americans they finally can vote for a candidate who inspires them instead of voting against a candidate they fear.

It costs a lot of money—at least $266 million, according to campaign consultant Douglas Schoen—to build an independent candidate’s name recognition and support to the point at which he would be invited to the presidential debates. But Mr. Schultz can afford it. He can run to win.

Mr. Schultz’s candidacy also would elevate political discourse. Unable to focus solely on smearing each other, the two major parties would have to spend more time on substantive discussion of the issues to distinguish themselves from the centrist challenger. For example, Mr. Schultz has begun to lay out middle-ground positions on immigration and health care. These will make it tougher for other candidates to oversimplify the issues.

We need to learn more about Mr. Schultz’s policies before he earns our support, but we believe firmly that he has the right to run, and that his candidacy could elevate American politics. Social-media bullies are trying to scare him from running for president, but we doubt it’ll work.

If you are a Democrat worried about Mr. Schultz playing spoiler, don’t insult him; instead, convince voters that another candidate is better. Our government doesn’t belong eternally to Democrats and Republicans, and American voters deserve another choice. Mr. Schultz, ignore the naysayers. Go for it.

Mr. Simon, a Maryland business executive and community leader, was an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018. Mr. Orman, a Kansas entrepreneur, was an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014 and governor in 2018.



Jan. 28, 2019 7:38 p.m. ET

Mike Bloomberg vs. Howard Schultz

How dare another billionaire decide to run for President?

The billionaires are battling, and this should be fun. So it has gone the last two days as Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO, told CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday that he may run for President as an independent in 2020. That drew a lightning bolt from Mount Bloomberg, also known as former New York City Mayor Michael, who declared that an independent can’t win and would help President Trump.

“Now I have never been a partisan guy—and it’s no secret that I looked at an independent bid in the past. In fact I faced exactly the same decision now facing others who are considering it,” Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire many times over, said in a statement Monday. “The data was very clear and very consistent. Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the electoral college system, there is no way an independent can win.”

Even worse, Mr. Bloomberg said, “In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President. That’s a risk I refused to run in 2016 and we can’t afford to run it now.”

You have to admire the exquisite self-interest of Mr. Bloomberg’s timing. Having explored an independent run to a fare-thee-well twice, Mr. Bloomberg now says it’s a bad idea when this time he may run for the Democratic nomination. He’s afraid an independent run by Mr. Schultz would hurt the Democratic nominee.

But would it? We recall the spring of 1992 when everyone thought Ross Perot’s candidacy would also divide the Democratic vote. In the end Mr. Perot split the Republican coalition, won 19% and helped to elect Bill Clinton.

Mr. Bloomberg’s assumption is that an independent would divide the vote for change. But why couldn’t Mr. Schultz appeal to independents and Republicans who voted reluctantly for Mr. Trump but are put off by the constant chaos of his governing style?

Mr. Bloomberg is right that an independent probably can’t win the presidential race. But Mr. Schultz’s ultimate appeal would depend on how he campaigned and which issues he stressed. His appeal in a three-way race would also depend on how far left the Democrats go with their nominee. If Democrats nominate a centrist, that candidate might co-opt Mr. Schultz’s likely focus on the economy and federal debt.

Mr. Bloomberg should run if he thinks he can win, but being a billionaire doesn’t make him prescient about the 2020 election.

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