Steve Schmidt: Bad Judgment or Bad Faith? Moderate Republican and campaign guru Steve Schmidt has spent the last couple of years on cable news, quite rightly decrying and disparaging Donald Trump and the Republican Party which has fallen in line behind him.
Now, however, he’s emerged in a more sinister guise, as a leading adviser to Starbuck’s Howard Schultz, whose projected independent presidential candidacy may well provide the only way that Trump can win re-election in 2020.
Schultz’s bid is premised on several whopping delusions: First, that there’s a silent majority of independents in the electorate who will outvote both Democrats and Republicans when presented with an independent option; second, that that silent majority will back a candidate who says, as Schultz has, that we need to scale back entitlements; and third, that the threat to American democracy that Trump presents with each passing day is no greater than whatever threat his Democratic successor would pose.
As to the first delusion, the share of independents in the electorate who don’t lean either to the Democrats or Republicans is at most 8 percent, and most of that group remains firmly anchored in the nonvoting portion of our electorate. To the second, there is overwhelming support in every poll for preserving and expanding Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and increasing publicly funded access to health care, parental leave, and such. As to the third, no mainstream political scientist, once she’s checked the data, believes that the extremism of the Republicans, much less of Trump, has been matched by the Democrats, or that, for instance, the Democrats’ efforts to ensure voting rights is somehow comparable to Trump and the Republicans’ efforts to curtail them.
Steve Schmidt, who’s clearly a very bright guy, certainly isn’t taken in by Schultz’s three delusions, or any other that would lead one to conclude that an independent presidential candidacy could succeed. He has to know that it would only enable Trump—whom Schmidt has repeatedly and roundly condemned—to squeak through to an Electoral College or House-vote victory in 2020.
Then again, Schmidt may be best known for one epic failure of judgment—his 2008 recommendation to Republican presidential nominee John McCain, whom Schmidt served as chief campaign strategist, to take an obscure governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his running mate.
The question, then, is whether Schmidt has entered one of his apparently periodic moments of inexplicably bad judgment, or whether he has merely succumbed to what must be the huge paychecks that Schultz has dangled before him. Inquiring minds want to know.