REALTORS® Remain 'Trusted' Players as Political Environment Shifts

May 14, 2014

The changing political landscape may be making it harder for Washington to get things done, but REALTORS® remain well-positioned to advance the interests of their industry and their communities, according to two of the country’s top political strategists. They say that’s because real estate professionals are active in every district in the nation, and lawmakers value their local knowledge and experience.

“Politicians don’t want to get into a fight with a big force that has tentacles in every community,” says Steve Schmidt, a top Republican political strategist and a chief architect of Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “That makes REALTORS® a very powerful political organization.”

David Plouffe, the chief strategist for President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, called REALTORS® “trusted” advisors among lawmakers because they “have their community interests at heart.” Should Congress take up a tough issue like tax reform after this year’s elections, he says, REALTORS® will have an influential voice. Plouffe acknowledged the huge influx of money that corporate interests are pumping into campaigns now but said that messages from real estate professionals can overcome that if they are quick, clear, and forceful in their positions.

“The most important communication is still the conversation you have with your member of Congress,” he said.

Speaking before a capacity crowd on Tuesday, the first day of the REALTOR® Party Convention & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., the two strategists were not far apart on how the 2014 and 2016 national elections are shaping up. For the elections later this year, the experts said that Republicans are likely to expand their majority in the House. However, the Senate remains too tight for anyone to predict whether the Republicans will take the majority in that chamber. Whatever happens, it will likely come down to a couple of highly competitive races such as those in Louisiana and Alaska, where Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich, respectively, are defending their seats.

Even if Republicans win the Senate later this year, the party faces a daunting task in the 2016 presidential election because the country’s changing demographics favor Democrats, Schmidt says. For that reason, it’s critical for Republicans to become a party with ideas for reforming government and not just a party trying to dismantle it.

“There aren’t enough white people left to elect the president without bringing in other groups,” Schmidt said.

Both analysts said the lame-duck session immediately following elections later this year and the first three months of the new legislative session in 2015 offer the best chance of passing major legislation such as tax reform and immigration reform. After that, the politics of the 2016 presidential election will loom too large.

Plouffe said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton starts with a big advantage should she decide to run. If she doesn’t, the field will be wide open on the Democratic side, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the person who wins the nomination is someone who is not on anyone’s radar at the moment. The analysts offered up no potential Republican candidates, although Schmidt said the reason New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had generated interest at first is because he was seen as the kind of reform Republican that could help the party break the electoral lock that Democrats now have in many states.

—By Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine

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