December 28, 2018 / 3:06 PM / 4 months ago

Breakingviews - Boardroom brawls will be child’s play to politics

A general view of the White House in Washington September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Boardroom disputes will look like child’s play compared to the hurly-burly of American politics. Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, hedge-fund boss Tom Steyer, entrepreneur Mark Cuban and Michael Bloomberg are businessmen deciding next year if they’ll make a White House run. But marketing coffee, shorting stocks, owning a sports team and selling data may not be applicable to a bruising campaign, especially with so many Democratic candidates calling out their immense wealth.

Donald Trump’s escalator descent to announce his presidential run in 2015 has upended American politics. Corporate chiefs and Hollywood stars have mulled following in his footsteps. Schultz is releasing a book in February that meshes his upbringing with societal responsibilities. Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital, released something of a manifesto around Thanksgiving. Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban and Bloomberg, who considered a run in 2016, are thinking about entering the race.

While their business acumen is impressive, the brutal nature of a presidential campaign is something else. Bloomberg already has political chops as a three-term mayor. But a local race, even in New York, doesn’t compare to a national presidential run, where his extraordinary wealth, personal life and business decisions will be picked apart. Even seasoned politicians like Hillary Clinton had new skeletons dug up in a White House run.

The fight for the Democratic nomination will be even uglier because of the crowded field. Nearly 30 people are expected to vie for the mantle. There’s a liberal contingent including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, all of whom castigate the Wall Street culture that arguably aided Bloomberg, Steyer and others. They may compete with party elders like former Vice President Joe Biden.

A presidential run is also grueling and unglamorous. Candidates hit multiple towns in one day and stay overnight at Residence Inns - not the Four Seasons. Contenders spend their early mornings and late nights calling to donors, radio shows and others.

The survivor at the end of the nomination process then faces Trump, who has a penchant for giving opponents insulting nicknames. He has already deemed Warren “Pocahontas” and Biden “Crazy Joe.” Corporate chiefs who have taken down business rivals may not be prepared for a political beatdown.

- This is a Breakingviews prediction for 2019. To see more of our predictions, click reut.rs/2R6H5pG

Breakingviews

Reuters Breakingviews is the world's leading source of agenda-setting financial insight. As the Reuters brand for financial commentary, we dissect the big business and economic stories as they break around the world every day. A global team of about 30 correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and other major cities provides expert analysis in real time.


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