Howard Schultz would not be a spoiler for Democrats the way Ross Perot was for the GOP, top donor Alan Patricof says

Key Points
  • Schultz is a "formidable guy," says Democratic supporter and venture capitalist Alan Patricof, arguing he has the brand recognition that Perot never had. 
  • Patricof also says, "I wouldn't underestimate Howard Schultz twice," recalling how he passed up on investing in Starbucks decades ago.
Howard Schultz
Pier Marco Tacca | Getty Images

Howard Schultz, if he were to run for president in 2020 as an independent, would not be a spoiler for the Democrats the way businessman Ross Perot was to Republicans in 1992, longtime venture capitalist and major Hillary Clinton donor Alan Patricof said Monday.

Patricof said Schultz, a self-described lifelong Democrat, is nothing like Perot.

"Ross Perot was a funny-looking odd guy who had no exposure whatsoever to 'Mrs. and Mr. America,' whereas Howard Schultz for the last 30-40 years is known by every single human being" for Starbucks, Patricof said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box." 

Schultz, who built Starbucks into a global powerhouse during two tenures as chairman and CEO, said in an interview that aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, that he was "seriously thinking" of running for president "as a centrist independent, outside of the two-party system."

A strong third-party candidacy has long been a fear for both parties after Perot won nearly 19 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 race against GOP incumbent President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. The enthusiasm around Perot was blamed for siphoning off Republican votes from Bush and giving the presidency to Clinton.

Patricof's bullish take on Schultz is also a contrarian one. Democrats, including some 2020 candidates, argued that a Schultz candidacy would indeed give President Donald Trump another term. Trump himself weighed in with a tweet Monday morning, saying Schultz "doesn't have the "guts" to run.

Patricof, founder of the Greycroft venture capital firm that specializes in technology, also said he learned a hard lesson when he passed on backing Starbucks decades ago. He said that has affected his feelings on Schultz as a possible presidential candidate.

"When someone brought the idea to us to invest and I said, 'What in the world does New York need with another coffee shop? We have one on every block.' He likes to smile about that, and so do I. Everyone has to have a few of those in their background," Patricof said.

"I wouldn't underestimate Howard Schultz twice," he asserted. "I think he's a formidable guy."

Patricof said he does not believe the entire Democratic Party is moving far to the left. "There are certainly several candidates that are moving in that direction," he said.

But he added, "There are a lot of good candidates" and "they're only just starting to come around and visiting."

Patricof said he has not decided on whom he'll back in 2020 against Trump.