The Republican-leaning head of a Pennsylvannia-based chain of sporting goods stores, Ed Stack, is reportedly testing the waters for a third-party presidential run in 2020, according to a report Wednesday morning from Politico.
A spokesman for the CEO said Stack has no plans to run for political office, but someone is running focus groups in Wisconsin this week testing his potential to upset Donald Trump and whoever ends up on the Democratic ticket.
Politico said the roughly two-dozen participants in the focus groups were asked if they would consider supporting a third-party candidate and how Stack measured up against a slate that included Trump and either Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren. Some of those participants said they doubted whether Stack had the charisma it would take to surmount the considerable hurdles facing any third-party effort.
The billionaire Stack, who has served as the CEO of the retailer since 1984 and is a top Republican donor, stepped into the national spotlight following the 2018 Parkland, Fla. high school massacre when he announced that Dick’s would stop selling military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines and raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21. The moves drew the ire of gun rights activists and the NRA.
More recently, Stack has been promoting a new book, “It’s How We Play the Game,” and wading into the national debate over gun rights. He has been harshly critical of Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders for lacking the “guts” to tackle gun control.
A third-party bid would face tremendous logistical and financial hurdles, but has the potential to significantly disrupt the 2020 race. In 1992, an independent run by populist businessman Ross Perot was widely credited with siphoning enough votes from Republican George H.W. Bush to hand the election to Democrat Bill Clinton. Perot won nearly 19 percent of the popular vote and carried two states.