Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz would not commit to getting out of the presidential race if he knows in late 2020 that his candidacy will help President Donald Trump get elected.
Asked multiple times by CNN’s Poppy Harlow at a CNN town hall in Houston, Schultz, who has not yet entered the 2020 presidential race, dodged the question. He said he would not run if, in the next few months, “math doesn’t tally up” but declined to say he would do the same later in the race, should he decide to run.
“First off, the issue of being a spoiler, how can you spoil a system that is already broken?” he said. “It’s just not working.”
He then added, “Now, what I’ve said publicly and I want to repeat, if the math doesn’t tally up when I get through the next three or four months and I take my message out to the American people and I continue to talk this way about how concerned I am about the country and how much I think we can do so much better under a different process, if the numbers don’t add up, I will not run for president, because I will not do anything, whatsoever, to re-elect Donald Trump no one wants to see him fired more than me.”
The answers stuck to Schultz’s main talking points, which he went back to often throughout CNN’s town hall on Tuesday – the two-party system is broken, Trump need to leave office and Schultz believes that he has the right experience and skills to help restore Americans’ trust in the government. Nearly all of his answers lacked substantive policy proposals or specifics, with the former Starbucks CEO often pivoting to criticizing both of the major political parties.
Schultz has previously said he wouldn’t do anything to help re-elect Trump in 2020, and has often emphasized that he won’t plan to run if polls show his entry into the race could help Trump.
But, when pressed on whether he would still be making the same calculation deep into the presidential run in September or October 2020 – that he won’t do anything to help Trump stay in office – Schultz said he was not at that point yet.
“At this point right now, I’m asking a different question. And that is, it’s a lot less about me than giving the American people a voice that they don’t have,” he said. “And what better expression of our democracy than giving the American people a better choice, a new choice. There’s nothing in the Constitution, not one word, that says anything about parties. So why can’t I raise my voice and say I’m deeply concerned about where we are as a country?”
This story has been updated.