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Former DNC chair Ed Rendell thinks there could be an opening for Howard Schultz in 2020 – if Joe Biden doesn't run

  • There is a place for departing Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz in the Democratic Party, says former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
  • Speculation has been rampant about a possible presidential bid by Schultz in 2020.
  • "Absent Joe Biden getting in, there's no front-runner. It's a wide-open field," says Rendell.

There is a place for departing Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz in the Democratic Party, and there could be an opening for him in the 2020 presidential race, too, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told CNBC on Tuesday.

But there's a catch, and it involves a former vice president.

"Absent Joe Biden getting in, there's no front-runner. It's a wide-open field," said Rendell, who also was chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election.

"There are 22 people who have expressed interest in running. If half of those people run, it creates an opening for a new type of candidate," he told "Closing Bell."

Speculation has been rampant about a possible presidential bid by Schultz in 2020 since he announced on Monday he would be stepping down from the executive chairman position.

Biden, meanwhile, hasn't said if he'd make another run for the White House, only saying he hasn't ruled it out.

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz
Getty Images
Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz

Schultz has taken a more active role in politics in recent years. However, in an exclusive interview with CNBC earlier Tuesday, he declined to specifically talk about whether he would challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

"There's a lot of things I can do as a private citizen other than run for the presidency of the United States," Schultz said. "Let's just see what happens."

However, he still opined on a number of political issues and even took a few shots at Democrats, saying many leaders in the party were veering too far left.

Despite the fact that Schultz, if he ran as a Democrat, would be facing left-leaning candidates if he decided to run, Rendell still thinks he has a chance in the Democratic primary if the field is made up of 11 or 12 people.

"In an 11-person field, maybe 26 percent wins the primary. Who's to say he couldn't slice off 25 percent of moderates?" Rendell said.

He said what Schultz needs to do is position himself as a problem-solver, the former governor said.

"He would have to look at the camera when he announces and say, 'I'm going to tell you the truth I'm not going to tell you what you want to hear. … We're going to solve some of the problems facing American in a bipartisan, nonideological fashion. We're going to make tough decisions,'" Rendell said.

However, Schultz still has a lot of work ahead of him if he decides to toss his hat into the ring.

"I'm not saying he's there yet," Rendell said. "He's got the herculean task of convincing people to vote against their short-term interest and vote for their long-term interest. It hasn't been done in a while, but John McCain almost did it in 2000."

The other option is running as an independent, GOP strategist Sara Fagen told "Power Lunch" on Tuesday.

"The country is ripe for an independent candidacy," said Fagen, who was a senior aide to President George W. Bush.

The number of people registering as independents is on the rise and has hit a 70-year high, noted Fagen, who is a CNBC contributor.

Schultz served two stints as CEO of Starbucks and will step down as executive chairman on June 26. He'll then become chairman emeritus.