Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz enters Tuesday night’s CNN town hall with Poppy Harlow in Houston as one of the most talked about – and controversial – possible candidates for President in 2020.
The town hall will take place at 10 p.m. ET.
Schultz has been preparing for the town hall for the past week, a spokesperson for the billionaire tells CNN, viewing the event as a key opportunity to explain to voters why he would be the man for the job and convince a somewhat skeptical electorate that a potential run would not ensure President Donald Trump’s re-election, as Democrats have vigorously argued.
Schultz’s announcement that he was considering a run as a centrist independent was met with scorn last month, with some of the party’s top operatives worrying that the former CEO would split the anti-Trump vote and ensure the Republican four more years in the White House.
Schultz has responded to these criticisms at a series of book tour and speaking events by saying he would not run if it ensured a Trump re-election. But the former CEO has also said he does not believe that would be the case if he ran.
“I think the extent of (the push back) has taken us back a bit,” Schultz said in an interview over the weekend on SiriusXM. “We expected it but not as acute as it has become.”
Despite the fervent criticism of Schultz, the billionaire also comes to the table with a number of strengths. Voters often express disillusionment with the current party system, something Schultz could use to his favor. And his considerable means also give him a chance to self-fund a presidential campaign.
But the odds are firmly stacked against Schultz, should he run.
There is a long history of third parties in the United States, but few have ever come anywhere near winning. Ross Perot ran as an independent in 1992, winning close to 20 million votes but no votes in the electoral college.
Additionally, polls show that those people who don’t identify with a party – 40%, according to a CNN poll released in January – are just as partisan as most Americans. When those who don’t identify as Democrat or Republican are asked how they lean, just 10% really identify as true independents with no affiliation or tendency toward one party over the other.
Most of the questions on Tuesday will be asked by voters from Texas.
Schultz’s spokesperson said that the former CEO won’t be proposing any changes to current policy but will look to talk to voters about gun control, immigration, health care and trade.
He’ll point to his experience as chairman and CEO at Starbucks to highlight his knowledge of the issues, the spokesperson said, and plans to cite one example where he traveled to West Virginia to learn more about the opioid epidemic. He’ll also tout the fact that Starbucks was one of the first large corporations to give health care to both full-time and part-time workers at the company, the spokesperson said, something Schultz’s team has said tests well in their focus groups and polling.
Schultz also plans to reveal Tuesday that he would release his tax returns soon after he announced his candidacy, the spokesperson said, a nod to Trump still not releasing his.
Since Schultz left Starbucks six months ago, he’s traveled across the country speaking to different groups – including making a trip to the border in McAllen, Texas.
Schultz is acutely aware that he is not well-known, confirmed by a recent CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, where almost half of Americans (46%) had never heard of him.