Howard Schultz flips script, warns Democrats their nominee could be ‘spoiler’

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, battling Democratic criticism that he'd be a "spoiler" should he launch an independent bid for president, urged the party to consider the possibility that their own nominee could play such a role.

Schultz, who said last month he was considering running for president, suggested Tuesday in a post on Medium that Democrats could sabotage their own chances of ousting President Trump from the White House in 2020 by nominating a candidate too far to the left.

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“The stakes are too high to cross our fingers and hope the Democratic Party nominates a moderate who can win over enough independents and disaffected Republicans, and even fellow Democrats, to defeat Trump next year,” Schultz wrote. “That any opponent can oust Trump, no matter how far to the radical left they are, is a fallacy.”

He added: “Those so concerned about a centrist independent being a spoiler should perhaps ask another question: Will the eventual Democratic nominee be the party’s own version of a spoiler?”

Schultz, a 65-year-old Seattle billionaire who launched a tour last month to promote his latest book, "From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America," has been the subject of presidential speculation ever since saying when he retired from Starbucks last June that his future could include "public service."

On paper, Schultz offers a number of qualities that might appeal to voters. He grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, New York, and became the first person in his family to graduate from college.

He took over Starbucks when it sold only coffee beans, not cups — it had 11 stores and fewer than 100 employees at the time — and grew it into a global behemoth that now has close to 30,000 stores in 78 countries. He made Starbucks one of the earliest U.S. companies to offer stock options and health insurance even to part-time employees, and more recently partnered with Arizona State University to cover tuition for workers who want to earn their bachelor's degree online.

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The former Starbucks chief is also a longtime Democratic donor, contributing to the campaigns of former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, among others. But his story and past Democratic support appear to have not won him any leeway with a Democratic Party singularly focused on taking back the White House from Trump and concerned that any independent run would be to Trump’s benefit.

The opposition from Democrats to his possible run, however, seems to have done little to dissuade the billionaire from considering one.

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“I firmly believe there is an unprecedented appetite for a centrist independent presidential candidate, and that there is a credible path for an independent to win more than the necessary 270 electoral votes — a key criteria in my consideration of whether to run,” Schultz wrote.

He also vowed, "I hear and respect this overriding concern, and have repeatedly promised that I will not be a spoiler. I am committed to ensuring that I will do nothing to re-elect Donald Trump. I mean it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.