Schultz presidential rollout ignites fury on left

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is enduring a rocky presidential rollout. 

Schultz, who announced Sunday that he is considering a White House run as an independent, has faced an onslaught of criticism by Democrats who have criticized his wealth and slammed him for offering a candidacy they say could hand President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE another term in the Oval Office. 

Critics from David Axelrod to The View's Joy Behar to political figures such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWhat the coronavirus reveals about the race grievance industry Democrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Overnight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims MORE (D-N.Y.) have piled in, ripping Schultz for a sense of entitlement in announcing his intentions. 

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Schultz has had some public defenders as well, but they have been largely drowned out by his critics — some who saw in the former Starbucks leader another billionaire businessman not ready for the political stage.

“Really? The coffee guy wants to be president?” HBO host Bill Maher tweeted. “Just because you had one profitable insight — people will overpay for coffee — doesn’t mean you can run the world. Government is a different animal, can we please get a pro in there?”

In fact, the criticism has been so vociferous, it has left some Democrats believing that Schultz, who is currently on a book tour, won’t end up running for the White House. 

“Democrats will not have to pressure Schultz to drop out of the race,” said Robert Zimmerman, a prominent Democratic donor. “When his books move to the $1 discount bin at bookstores, he will get the message.”

Erin McPike, a spokeswoman for Schultz, said all the blowback this week “shows he is resonating.”

“He wrote in an earlier book, ‘Don't try to fit the system.’ It's in his blood to create a new paradigm, so he's asking Americans if they agree that now is the time for a reimagining of our political system,” McPike said to The Hill. “We know real change can seem unnerving at first.”

Schultz used a spot on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” to begin his media blitz, which also included interviews on a string of network and cable shows. But as he made the rounds, Schultz dealt with hecklers, an avalanche of criticism on social media and even hecklers at his book events.

“Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire asshole!” a protester shouted as he appeared at a Barnes and Noble event in New York alongside CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. “Go back to getting ratioed on Twitter.” 

When MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski asked Schultz how much an 18 ounce box of Cheerios costs, the billionaire replied: “An 18 ounce box of Cheerios? I don’t eat Cheerios.” 

When the Morning Joe host revealed the cereal costs four dollars, a seemingly surprised Schultz responded: “That’s a lot.” 

When he appeared on “The View,” he wasn’t just being attacked from hosts on the left like Behar but by Republican Megan McCain, who said Schultz is a “glaring example that, as long as you’re a billionaire, you can run for anything.”  

The antipathy from Democrats toward Schultz is based partly on painful memories of lost elections, but also has been amplified in a Trump era where the party’s left-wing is clearly assurgent.

In 2000, Democrats see Independent candidate Ralph Nader as having stolen the presidential election from former Vice President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreAl Gore blasts Trump: 'You can't gaslight a virus' Who should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes unexpected step to stem coronavirus MORE by playing the spoiler in Florida. 

Even in the tight election of 2016, Democrats can argue they lost states because of Independent candidates. 

In Michigan, where Trump defeated Clinton by about 11,000 votes, the Libertarian candidate Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonWeld drops out of GOP primary Weld bets on New Hampshire to fuel long shot bid against Trump The 'Green' new deal that Tom Perez needs to make MORE won 172,000 votes and Green Party candidate Jill Stein won 51,000 votes. 

Schultz’s wealth and business background, and the sense he will need to attack Democrats to win support, is also enraging Democrats.

Just this week, Schultz said Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation WhatsApp limiting message forwarding in effort to stop coronavirus misinformation The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update MORE’s (D-Calif.) statement that private insurance companies could be abolished under "Medicare for all" proposals was not American.

“That’s not correct, that’s not American. What’s next? What industry are we going to abolish next? The coffee industry?” he said on CBS.

Not everyone has harsh words for Schultz or sees his possible entry into the race as unwelcome.

Talk show host Michael Smerconish told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Wednesday that he was “dumbfounded” by the pushback from Democrats. 

“Why aren’t we thanking him? … I salute anybody, as Theodore Roosevelt said, who is willing to get in the arena.”  

For their part, Democrats appear relieved at what they see as a fizzling start for Schultz.

At the beginning of the week, Democrats worried that Schultz could upend a presidential race against Trump. But as the week carried on, they said the billionaire had done damage to his own brand and lost stock with those who might support him.

“The most immediate and lasting impact is that somehow in 48 hours Schultz has managed to undo the decades he spent branding himself as a different kind of CEO who cares about his workers and the greater good,” Democratic strategist Eddie Vale said. “Evidently, he's just another billionaire who doesn't want to pay taxes, hates unions, loves Reagan, and thinks anyone who disagrees with him is un-American.

“But the most likely outcome is that he will decide not to run, or, if he does, it will fizzle out after lighting a giant pile of his money on fire,” Vale said.