Billionaire Howard Schultz said he is no longer considering an independent bid for the US presidency, telling supporters he feared splitting the vote against incumbent Donald Trump if a “moderate Democrat” were to win the party’s nomination.
The former Starbucks chief executive wrote in a letter, which he later posted online, he had considered a formal run as an independent because of what he called an “exhausted majority” repelled by the far-right and far-left.
But he said the possibility that a more centrist candidate could capture the Democratic nomination, and the fact the candidate will not be known until after registration deadlines in most states, meant he risked undermining a moderate nominee.
“If I went forward, there is a risk that my name would appear on ballots even if a moderate Democrat wins the nomination, and that is not a risk I am willing to take,” he wrote.
Mr Schultz’s candidacy sparked howls of protest when he unexpectedly announced he was exploring a bid as an independent in January. Many in Washington had assumed he would run in the crowded Democratic field, and many in the party said even a small vote for the former Starbucks chief threatened to hand Mr Trump re-election.
Although Mr Schultz did not refer to the backlash in his letter, it was the first time he acknowledged the risk posed by his independent bid. He also said he had suffered a back injury in April that required “three subsequent surgeries” that helped convince him to drop his pursuit.
Mr Schultz’s withdrawal is the latest sign billionaire businessmen are struggling to gain political support despite the success of Mr Trump, a billionaire real estate developer who held no office before winning in 2016.
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg decided not to pursue the Democratic nomination in March, and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has failed to gain support in the Democratic race.