2020 Election: A Familiar Dynamic?

May 14, 2019

REALTORS® Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo

President Donald Trump’s prospects for reelection in 2020 will depend greatly on who Democrats nominate in a high-stakes contest that could echo the dynamics of 2016, former state governors Haley Barbour and Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday during the Legislative and Political Forum at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.

In the 2016 election, “Hillary Clinton lost more than Trump won,” said Barbour, a Republican strategist and former Mississippi governor, and it’s likely we’ll see a similar scenario in 2020. Barbour was governor from 2004 to 2012 and is the former chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Govs. Haley Barbour, left, and Terry McAuliffe

© REALTOR® Magazine

Former governors Haley Barbour of Mississippi, left, and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia discussed the role that REALTORS® can have in local and national politics.

But the outcome in 2020 depends on the competition. “If we go too far to the left, it will cost us the election,” said Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who served as Virginia governor from 2014 to 2018. “It’s critical to have a candidate who is pro-business and socially progressive. [Former Vice President Joe] Biden is our best shot.”

McAuliffe, who has chaired both the National Governors Association and the Democratic National Committee, pointed out that 92 million eligible voters didn’t cast ballots in 2016, a scenario Democrats must change if they hope to swing the election in a different direction, he says. Trump’s victories in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were by a combined total of just over 70,000 votes, an indication of incumbent vulnerability, he said. But “if the economy stays strong, Trump will be formidable.”

Gov. Barbour agreed that the economy will be a deciding factor in 2020, noting that the economic realities across Middle America have been vastly different in the past two years than in the years immediately following the Great Recession.

“This idea of a ten-year recovery is different in the heartland,” Barbour said. “When the national economy grows 2.1%  . . . in the heartland, [that] is often a declining economy. Today, you can tell the [economic] difference in the Midwest, in the mountain states, and in small-town America. If the economy mirrors next October or November what it is today, that is a big plus for President Trump.”

Both forum speakers acknowledged the role of real estate as an engine of the economy. “Real estate is vital because it touches everything,” McAuliffe said. “The business is so powerful in politics. Everything [people] do has a nexus connection to real estate. No other industry can connect with people the way real estate does.”

NAR’s 2019 Chair of Federal Legislative and Political Forum Adam Ruiz moderated Tuesday’s event. He said housing affordability was “the number one issue facing America right now” and added that “the vast majority of regulatory costs that influence this issue come at the state and local level.”

Barbour underscored that affordability solutions will not come at the federal level. “The idea that the federal government’s solution is going to work everywhere is a crazy idea,” he said. “The answer to this is in state and local government. Government that is closest to the people is most effective.”