Democrats are so panicky about a potential Howard Schultz third party presidential run that Schultz's former company, Starbucks, has had to issue guidelines to their baristas on how to handle "aggressive" customers worried Schultz will spoil 2020.
It turns out, they have reason to be worried. According to the first polls out on Schultz's campaign — one internal and one Morning Consult/external — Schultz is polling in the double digits against Democrats in a three-way challenge with President Donald Trump.
The Washington Examiner reports that the internal poll shows Schultz with a commanding 17% against Trump and either Sen. Elizabeth Warrren (D-MA) or Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), both among the top contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
That may not sound like a strong showing, but it puts Schultz in the position of being a "spoiler" for both potential Democratic nominees. When Schultz is added to the lineup, Trump posts 33% compared to Warren and Harris, who post 32% and 31% respectively — a situation that would likely lead to a narrow loss for either.
It's also good news for Schultz, independently: in order to be on the ballot in most states, a third party candidate must command more than 15% of the vote in five key national polls. Schultz is within reach of that, particularly given that his own internal poll is tight, with only a 2.5% margin of error.
An external poll from Morning Consult shows similar results — and that Americans are increasingly open to the prospect of a third party candidate in the 2020 contest. Politico reports that at least 35% of voters are willing to consider a third party candidate, and at least 12% believe that they would cast a ballot for someone other than Donald Trump or the Democratic candidate.
That still puts Schultz in a spoiler position, but he's polling better than most Democratic contenders and he's a year out of the Iowa cacuses.
One place where Schultz falls short is among potential third party voters who are looking more for a "moderate" alternative to either the President or the Democratic field. Although most third party voters assume third party candidates are moderate, that isn't necessarily the case with Schultz, who waffles between being socially progressive and a "pro-business" conservative based on the day and the issue, and it isn't necessarily the case with "independent voters," either, who are typically more to one side or the other than they believe.
"There’s a common misperception that independents are moderate,” one Republican strategist told Politico. “Most independents aren’t any more centrist than traditional partisans. Rather, they’ve made the decision to switch because of a hostility or disdain for the way politics is practiced.”
That's for Schultz to sort out, though. For now, it's clear that his potential candidate does represent a very serious threat to the Democrats, who just aren't sending their best to the 2020 contest.