Thursday, January 31, 2019


Maybe you haven't noticed, but this week, for the first time in a couple of years, the highest-profile anti-Democratic troll in America hasn't been Donald Trump. Trump has owned that title since he declared his candidacy for the presidency, but Howard Schultz has stolen Trump's crown, and it's not clear when, if ever, he'll relinquish it. Schultz has been trolling Democrats relentlessly this week. Trump, by contrast, doesn't seem to be trying very hard.

We know that Trump is cheering Schultz on:

Trump thinks Schultz's candidacy is good for his reelection prospects. That's the conventional wisdom, although some observers -- Nate Silver, BooMan -- think Schultz actually threatens Trump, because he could take votes from affluent suburban voters who dislike Trump but might vote for the president in a two-person race if the Democrat is very economically progressive.

But if the media -- which is full of precisely the kinds of socially moderate, economically conservative white males Schultz appeals to -- continues to give the coffee guy an inordinate amount of attention, Trump is going to be very impatient. Trump may eventually come to regard Schultz as a threat, especially if polling shows Schultz hurting Trump in a three-way race. (I don't know whether polling will ever show that, and it's not at all obvious that Trump will believe such polling if it exists -- he tends to believe only good polling news.)

I think Schultz should seriously consider running as a Republican in any case. Far more than Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, John Kasich, or Ben Sasse, Schultz has demonstrated a skill at doing something that's critically important to GOP voters: he Annoys The Libs. This week, he's annoyed us more than Trump has.

Imagine if 2019 brings more indictments, a Mueller report that implicates Trump, impeachment hearings, and possibly a recession or other unsettling developments. Imagine if Trump is weakened, even in the eyes of his base. Imagine if his punches stop landing.

Some GOP voters will want a new lib-owner. Will they go for a social moderate who claims to have been a lifelong Democrat, and whose positions on quite a few issues are far to their left? Well, they went for an occasionally war-skeptical, formerly pro-choice ex-Democrat in 2016, didn't they?

Of course, in order to compete in the Republican primaries, Schultz would presumably have to, y'know, run against Trump. Or maybe he wouldn't. It's common for candidates in presidential primaries to spend most of their time attacking an anticipated general-election opponent. Schultz is already doing that to the Democrats. Why not just keep doing it in Republican primaries?

I don't think Schultz could beat Trump in the primaries. However, I think he could put more of a scare into Trump than the usual run of milquetoast #NeverTrumpers. The reason is obvious: Schultz does Trump's act almost as well as Trump does.

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