Howard Schultz
Howard Schultz.
AP/Elaine Thompson
  • Howard Schultz announced he was stepping down as Starbucks’ executive chairman on Monday.
  • Schultz has long fueled rumors of presidential aspirations and told The New York Times his next step “could include public service.”
  • Democratic strategists told Business Insider that Schultz would have an uphill climb.
  • While Starbucks workers said they respect Schultz’s dedication to social issues, some who worked closely with the former CEO questioned why he would “ruin his life” by running for office.

Starbucks’ Howard Schultz has long fueled rumors regarding his presidential aspirations.

On Monday, Schultz announced he was stepping down from his role as executive chairman at the chain. Immediately, those rumors intensified.

The New York Times asked Schultz directly about a presidential run with news of his departure. Schultz said: “I intend to think about a range of options, and that could include public service. But I’m a long way from making any decisions about the future.”

While Schultz has long maintained he was not planning to run for president, rumors have followed the businessman for years. And they make sense — Schultz has long acted in a manner very similar to a political candidate, even when he was leading Starbucks.

“This is not a time for isolationism, for nationalism,” Schultz said in May, when accepting the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Business Leadership Award.

“This is a time, as we face this crucible, for cooperation,” Schultz continued in a speech that sounds like it could have been written for a presidential candidate. “This is not a time to build walls. This is a time to build bridges.”

Experts aren’t convinced that Schultz has what it takes to win

Howard Schultz
Schultz.
Stephen Brashear/Getty

Democrats are already considering candidates for the 2020 presidential race. Politicians such as independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are gaining momentum.

Pollsters have been tracking Schultz’s potential for almost a year. Morning Consult, a nonpartisan polling outlet, placed Schultz at 21% favorability among Democrats, based on a national sample of 895 registered members of the party last June. Just 10% of Democrats held an unfavorable view of Schultz in the poll, while 55% of Democrats polled had never heard of the Starbucks executive.

Democratic strategists who spoke with Business Insider weren’t optimistic about his chances.

“I don’t think he’d be a particularly formidable candidate if he decides to run, even with his financial advantages,” said Jesse Lehrich, a former spokesman for 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

A staffer for a Democratic senator told Business Insider that Schultz would be a viable candidate because money wouldn’t be a huge issue. However, the staffer said they were “personally skeptical that Democratic primary voters want a billionaire businessman and Obama/Trump blue collar voters want…