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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Starbucks chairman emeritus Howard Schultz is a long shot to win the White House, but a sure bet to create headaches for the coffee chain he turned into a global empire.

Why it matters: Schultz's reputation and fortune comes from his time as the Ray Kroc of coffee, turning a small Seattle roaster with four stores into a 28,000-store phenomenon spanning 77 countries. That means massive scrutiny of Starbucks, by both the media and political opponents, unlike anything the company has yet experienced.

A former presidential campaign staffer says: "If I were the DNC or RNC, I'd already be sending people to Starbucks stores around the country, looking for employees with serious complaints."

  • "Maybe complaints that they emailed Schultz about but didn't hear back. Or the former mom and pop coffee shop that was put out of business when Starbucks showed up. It only takes one."

Schultz's successor as CEO, Kevin Johnson, emailed the chain's 350,000 employees worldwide a message at 6 a.m. yesterday that said: "As a company, we don’t get involved in national political campaigns. And nothing changes for Starbucks."

  • Good luck with that. If the company is publicly attacked, it will have little choice but to defend itself.
  • In fact, Starbucks officials have prepared for a media onslaught, and have studied the cases of other business titans who have run for office.

Schultz and Starbucks are tied at the hip, which means they'll need to work together. Kind of like Mitt Romney and Bain Capital in 2012.

  • For Schultz, that means quickly identifying supporters in upper Starbucks management (including in the communications and legal departments), and leveraging those people when the campaign needs time-sensitive answers.
  • It also would be beneficial to tap a former Starbucks executive as a trusted go-between, like Romney did with former Bain Capital co-founder Bob White.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 10 hours ago - Technology

From Malcolm X to "Free Britney," new media shapes the justice system

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

True crime documentaries, podcasts and social media campaigns are bringing new attention to real-world legal proceedings — and are often affecting the outcome.

Why it matters: New media platforms can instantly put a national spotlight on cases that have long been forgotten or buried under red tape.

Updated 12 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 13 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

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