Howard Schultz. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz tells Axios he's "unfazed" by the online trashing from Democrats who think that by running for president as an independent, he could split the anti-Trump vote and re-elect the president.

What he's saying: "I'm putting myself in a position that I know is going to create hate, anger, disenfranchisement from friends, from Democrats," Schultz said after last night's "60 Minutes" segment unveiling his plan to explore an independent bid.

  • "I'm concerned about one thing: Doing everything I can to help families who have been left behind, and to restore dignity and honor back in the Oval Office."
  • "I'm not considering this to win the Twitter primary," he continued. "I believe that lifelong Democrats and lifelong Republicans are looking for a home, and they're not spending hours and hours on Twitter."

Schultz's fellow billionaire, Mike Bloomberg, looked at running as an independent, but will run as a Democrat if he plunges in.

  • Howard Wolfson, a top Bloomberg adviser, tweeted after Schultz's appearance: "I have seen enough data over many years to know that anyone running for POTUS as an independent will split the anti-incumbent, anti-Trump vote."
  • "The stakes couldn’t be higher. We can not afford the risk of spoiler politics that result in Trump’s re-election."

A Schultz adviser tells me his team sees opportunity in "the most moderate population the country's ever had," with so many "disengaged and disenchanted."

  • In the latest Gallup data, 39% of people see themselves as independents, 34% as Ds and 25% as Rs.
  • The adviser said research by the Schultz team shows a centrist independent would draw evenly from the Republican and Democratic nominees, and bring Trump down to a "statistical floor of 26-27-28 percent."

Schultz talks of "the level of toxicity, the level of revenge" in national politics. But when I asked about Democrats, he said: "I don't want to get into specific people."

  • When I asked Schultz for examples of conservative ideas he supports that liberals don't, he said: "I have been a loud voice with regard to the national debt and the deficit, going back to the years of President Obama."

Schultz said it's too early to talk about a running mate.

  • But when I asked him a Republican he admires, he said Purdue President Mitch Daniels, the former Indiana governor.
  • And when I asked him a CEO he admires, he singled out IBM's Ginni Rometty, who "defines authenticity."

Schultz plans to travel the country for the next three months. He'll appear on "The View" tomorrow — the publication date of "From the Ground Up," which he calls "part memoir, part blueprint for how to induce positive change."

  • He told me he'll decide by late spring or early summer.
  • He left open the possibility of self-financing his campaign, which leaves him in less of a rush than candidates who have to build a fundraising machine.
  • "I think I've got plenty of time," he said. "I'll gauge the level of interest in what I've come to believe over the last year — that a choice between Donald Trump and a far-left-leaning progressive Democrat provides a wide and large opportunity."

Go deeper:

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
Please enter a valid email.
Please enter a valid email.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Subscribed! Look for Axios AM and PM in your inbox tomorrow or read the latest Axios AM now.

Go deeper

Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus — COVID-19 looms over White House Halloween celebrations
  2. Health: Fauci says maybe we should mandate masks if people don't wear them — America was sick well before it ever got COVID-19
  3. World: Polish President Andrzej Duda tests positive for COVID-19.

Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus

Marc Short with Katie Miller, Vice President Pence's communications director, in March. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Reuters

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force.

6 hours ago - World

Opposition leader Leopoldo López flees Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo López outside the Spanish embassy in Caracas, in 2019. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images

Leopoldo López, a former political prisoner and prominent Venezuelan opposition leader, has left the country, his Popular Will party confirmed in a statement Saturday.

Why it matters: He's been an influential force in the push to oust President Nicolás Maduro's regime and a mentor to opposition leader Juan Guaidó. He'd been in the Spanish ambassador's Caracas residence since escaping house arrest in April 2019 following a failed military uprising.