Howard Schultz and the Ghost of Ross Perot
Hey, Steve, it's Mary her said sleep. How are you? Mary. How're you doing? Steve Kornacki has been called the king of lickety-split political data analysis, you can usually find him swiping through a big flat screen on MSNBC. So when Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, set off a social media firestorm by dipping his toes in the twenty twenty presidential race. I thought Stephen what to make of it. Did you watch the heckling video last night? I was on late last night. So we saw of it. Yeah. I said last night is that I am seriously considering running for president as a centrist independent if you haven't seen this tape it shows Howard Schultz on a stage with journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin trying to explain why he's considering running as a third party presidential candidate which view merely as a designation on the ballot. And that's when a man standing at the back of the crowd just starts ripping into him. If you're sort of Barnes and noble, New York City book event, you're sort of at the heart of. Call it resistance culture. Billionaire elite. We're going to get you that idea and that sentiment in just a minute. The twenty twenty presidential field is getting crowded. They're the big names Kamala. Harris Elizabeth Warren Huston gillibrand, then they're the wildcards like the spiritual guru Marianne Williamson. She announced he was running his democrat earlier this week. But part of what's making people so upset about Howard Schultz is that by running as an independent he can skip the whole weeding out process of the primary, and he's got the money to hang around. If all someone knows about Howard Scholtz is that he runs Starbucks. And that's where I get my coffee. Is there more to him that we need to understand? Or do we not know yet? Yeah. I mean, I think you do need a bigger story than that. He look at the the third party candidacies that have you know, that have gotten some traction. I think the the best one the most encouraging modern example for somebody like Howard Schultz who might be thinking about running third party would be Ross Perot in nineteen ninety two. The guy heckling Howard Schultz that in New York City bookstore and all the people ratio him on Twitter there haunted by the ghosts of that nineteen Ninety-two election like Howard Schultz Ross Perot ran is a billionaire and a Washington outsider. He actually got nearly twenty percent of the vote wasn't enough to win. But some say it was enough to change the outcome. So as Steve to put me in the back seat of his time machine. And see if we could get a better idea of how one third party candidate influenced and election, and what that might say about how Howard Schultz could change the outcome in twenty twenty stay with us. What happened back in nineteen Ninety-two? It's not the perfect analogy for today. But no story would be Ross Perot was a well known businessman when he decided to run for office in the early nineties. Same is Howard Schultz is now and like today the sitting president, George H W Bush was in trouble the economy was faltering. He was worried about being implicated in the Iran, contra affair, and what you saw in the start of nineteen Ninety-two was Bush's approval rating was plummeting a year earlier he'd lead the country victory in war. The first Gulf war to get Saddam Hussein out of rack in early ninety two February nineteen Ninety-two Bush's approval rating false of thirty nine percent. And it's in that climate that Ross Perot goes on Larry King show. Larry King Live on CNN is any scenario in which you would run for president. Can you give me a scenario which say, okay, I'm in? Number one had a want. King asked him a bunch of times. Hey, you know, people are looking for would you run for president? And finally on you know, third passer so Perot finally just says if you're that series the people are that series. You register me in fifty states. And if you're not willing to organize and do that, then this is all just. Are you saying to the ordinary folks if you're dead serious starting? Sweat Alyce some sweat. Why do I wanna see some sweat? I said it earlier I want you in the rain. It's amazing because you basically don't have an internet in the way, we know it today. You don't have social media in the way, we know it today. And yet, it's this this sort of viral moment that word of that moment, the clip of that moment, you know, spreads spread slower than it would now. But over the course of days weeks and months this massive, and I truly truly massive grassroots movement emerges that starts getting Perot on the ballot. But spring ninety two by May June ninety two Ross Perot's running in first place in the national polls. He's a head to George H W Bush Clinton is far far behind and people are contemplating the possibility that Ross Perot might actually win the presidential election. Become an independent president blow up the two parties. Of course, this worst case scenario is not what happened Bill Clinton one is. I was president some of blame Perot for Bush's failure to win reelection. But Steve disagrees says pro was just a symptom of Bush's ailing presidency. Not the cause even so pro did manage to get almost twenty million votes. I do think the thing when Democrats look at the Ross Perot candidacy and think about Howard Schultz with they're really seeing is someone who is able to peel off nineteen percent of the vote. And what that could mean. Yeah. I mean, so the democratic argument, and I think it's plausible. I I don't I don't know. But the democratic argument is basically take a poll right now Donald Trump's approval rating, and you'll find probably a majority say they disapprove of his of his handling of the job. And there was another poll. I just saw this morning. ABC news Washington Post poll, say fifty six percent of people say they definitely would not vote for Trump in twenty twenty right now. So I think Democrats just look at those numbers, and they say, okay, the numbers are there to beat Trump. The the only thing that could possibly screw it up is if those numbers get divvied up if you got, you know, two candidates three candidates, whatever it is who are sort of competing for that. You know, I definitely won't vote for Trump vote. So from. The democratic standpoint. That's why you can't have him in the race. He could just get only siphoned off votes that would otherwise go to Trump the other theory of it, then I'm open to and again, I think it's plausible. We just don't know is how many voters remember we call them in twenty sixteen the reluctant Trump voters and in like him, they didn't they wanna vote for him. But in the end they checked his name off anyway because they didn't wanna have Hillary Clinton as president. They were essentially they were voting against Hillary Clinton. They were voting against the Democratic Party might have even been voting against the system, but they ship. Trump's name off even though they didn't like him, even though it's not something they wanted to do. There's a scenario. I think it's it's not implausible that those same voters are kind of up for grabs in the homestretch twenty twenty. And if you've got a guy like Howard Schultz out there, maybe in a way, they weren't with Hillary Clinton, those reluctant Trump voters are willing to go and vote for they're not willing to go all the way over and vote for a democrat. But they're willing to abandon Trump and vote for Scholtz and in that case. Maybe instead of you know, being a drain on people who who who would otherwise vote democratic maybe it ends up becoming this this sort of halfway house for reluctant Trump voters, and it actually cuts into Trump's side, that's one of the things with these. I think the history of these third party candidacies. There are sumptious about how these these candidates are going to draw their votes that don't always fully match up with what ends up happening. I mean Schultz's said he wants to run as an independent. He's also a billionaire. So it means he can kind of avoid some of the checks and balances of the party system. But can we talk a little bit about? What may what running is an independent really means? And how difficult it is. Yeah. No. I mean, I it's something as simple as ballot access. You know, every state has different, you know, different rules on how to get your name on the ballot in the November election. Some of them are real easy. Some of them are very hard. It costs a lot of money. Takes a lot of time a lot of resources and even these establishment, you know, third party third. Party that we have in this country like the green party the libertarian party. Even we'll have trouble getting on all fifty state ballots. It's not a given. It's not on a Matic. So just first of all you have to do that. Now has got a ton of money. That's going to go along way, you know. And again, I one of the other if he does run I think one of the other pages he'll take from Perot's book, obviously is the attack that money for a very extensive advertising campaign pros effective with that in ninety two the ads. He ran were very different. They were different than anything. Anybody really seen before when it came to political advertising? He took he would buy thirty minute blocks of network television time, he would preempt, you know, sitcoms, you know, instead of watching major dad one night, you'd get the Ross Perot infomercial on CBS evening tonight. We're going to talk about how to solve the problems that we defined that country. I think we can come to the conclusion immediately. What it did was image at eight. Guy is different this guy. There's an executive he's sitting at the desk diagnosing the problem. He's serious. All these it created all these sort of positive associations with Perot. I imagine Schultz would would try to do something similar. There is one hurdle that Schulz like Perot can't just by away access to the presidential debates the biggest single hurdle that third party candidacy would face just logistically can you get in those debates 'cause it when you get to the fall of twenty twenty and you got, you know, two three presidential debates, whatever they end up having if you're not on stage, then there's just gonna be a vast number of voters who are just gonna write you off. And right off a vote for you as a waste because clearly you're not serious enough, you know to get into debates per Perot's, a good example Perot in ninety two he dropped out of the race in the summer. Got back in the race the start of October. He was running it like six percent of the polls when he got back in the race and people were saying Perot's a shadow of himself. It's not really gonna matter. They put him in. Debate. Anyway, the two campaigns agreed to it. He kinda stole the show at the first abate and the rest is history. He gets up to twenty percent on election day Beth for any third party candidates since teddy Roosevelt in nineteen twelve Perot runs. Again. In nineteen Ninety-six does not get into debates is vote was cut more than half. He got about. He got seven eight percent in in nineteen Ninety-six part of why we're still talking about Ross Perot more than twenty years later is that he had this charisma. He was known as the populist billionaire steep says that's another lesson for Howard Schultz. Because no matter how much money you have or how many debates you do you still need people to like, you not heckle you at Barnes and noble. So you could spend the money as Ross Perot in ninety two and you could get traction. I'm not sure generation later, if you don't have that populous touch that the money is going to make that big of a difference, especially as I said in the media climate change so much. I'm also not sure money quite matters. The way it used to the other part. There was just this polarization in tribalism. It's really taken root over the last generation where people just have these incredibly strong personal sociation with part of blue America part of red America. I'm not part of blue America. I'm not part of red America. And I think more and more they look at elections, you know, through that lens, which which would just another barrier. Really for for third party candidate. Steve had one last story for me about a third party presidential candidate one more reason, why Democrats maybe shouldn't be so worried about twenty twenty another lesson. I think that it might be worth keeping in mind about third party candidates to is I do think voters kinda kind of figure it out before Perot. If you went back to nineteen eighty there was a guy named John Anderson who ran as an independent that year. Jimmy Carter was the incumbent president. Ronald Reagan was his Republican challenger, John Anderson was a liberal Republican you had those back then he left the Republican party to run as an independent in the Carter. White House Carter. Political operation was panicked. Petrified because they just looked at it. And they said, well, hey, John Anderson liberal Republican he's gonna he's gonna take votes from us. He's a liberal where the liberal, you know, and they waged a whole campaign that has some some shades of what you're seeing now about Howard Schultz, you know, Democrats in the summer and fall of nineteen eighty don't waste your vote. Don't waste your vote. They had banners. They had chance Carter himself was saying Mondale. Vice president was saying it on the campaign trail, don't waste your vote. Don't waste your vote in the end people got the message largely you know Anderson had been running at around twenty percent in the polls at one point. You know, he comes all the way down to six percent on election day, when you when you take the exit poll and say, you know, who was your second choice. Anderson voters slightly more said Carter and Reagan, but it wasn't anything. Like, it wasn't anything like, you know, Democrats had been fearing all year in one of the takeaways was, you know, voters looked at the choice. Between Carter and Reagan. They heard the message from card or they heard the message from Democrats and a lot of the democratic voters. They took the message, and they base stayed. With Carter wasn't nearly enough for Carter to Winnie. It's so many bigger problems out in nineteen eighty but in lose because John Anderson and the Anderson effect in nineteen eighty ended up not being anything like like Democrats feared it would be. Steve. Thank you so much for taking the time. No, thanks for taking me. Appreciate it. Steve Kornacki is the author of the red and the blue and the national political correspondent for NBC news and MSNBC. And that's the show. What next is hosted by me, Mary Harris or supervising producer is Mary Wilson. Our senior producer is Jason deleo, and our assistant producer is Anna Martin shout out to all of the new listeners from Stitcher which picked what next featured show this week. We are so happy how you all. If you wanna find me during the day, you can reach me on Twitter. 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