Written by and from the viewpoint of Greg Brown, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Apartment Association
Like so many people inside the Washington, D.C., beltway, I am eating my words from 11 months ago – “Donald Trump is not a serious candidate and there is no way he will get the GOP nomination,” I said. Even as support for Mr. Trump grew and other, seemingly more viable candidates fell away, I still could not absorb the idea. Certainly in the past 45 days, I have stopped speculating altogether because well, even I began to believe he could pull it off.
So here we are. At press time, Donald Trump is poised to claim enough delegates before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to be the GOP’s standard-bearer in the Presidential race. Having learned my lesson, I will measure my opinion about his chances of being Commander-in-Chief. His particular brand of bravado, policy “flexibility” shall we say and insight into the minds of some of our country’s most disaffected voters worked in the primary and could also work in the general election. Moreover, Mr. Trump is unorthodox, unpredictable and without a filter. Those are usually liabilities for a candidate, but for him they have been assets as his opponents’ more conventional campaign strategies failed.
According to recent polls, Mr. Trump starts the race against Hillary Clinton, assuming she is the Democratic nominee, under a 15-point deficit. Further, his overall “unfavorable” rating is nearly 60 percent while his support among women and the Hispanic community is dismal. Finally, he has to spend time wooing members of his own party to support his candidacy. Endorsements or at least pledges of support (some only for “the nominee”) are coming in from Senators, Governors members of the House, etc., but there are at least as many who are either pledging never to support Mr. Trump or who will not do so now. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is concerned about maintaining his own majority, won’t commit to Mr. Trump yet.
One could argue that Mr. Trump did not need the support of “establishment” Republicans to win the primary, so why does he need them now? Realistically, he needs that support for what it brings – money, surrogates to carry his message and ground troops to help build support within states and local communities. Typically, a Presidential candidate combines efforts with Senators and Representatives running for re-election. That may not be the case here for many candidates for whom Mr. Trump could be a liability. Campaign ads tying the most controversial parts of his message to Republican candidates are already airing in several states.
All this said, it will certainly be no easy ride to victory for Secretary Clinton. Her own unfavorable rating is above 50 percent and there is pretty strong current of distrust of her among voters. Like Mr. Trump, the Secretary is not guaranteed to garner the support of all of the communities within her own party. Those voters currently supporting Bernie Sanders might decide that she is too much status quo and not enough revolution. They, like some establishment Republicans, could stay home rather than cast a vote for their nominee. And, there is the email server controversy. While it seems like a dud of an issue for the average voter, an indictment could change the conversation significantly. Finally, Secretary Clinton has thus far been able to run a standard sort of campaign with all of the typical tools, methods and narrative. As noted above, that did not work against Mr. Trump in the primary and it will not work against him now. Is she really prepared for the “asymmetrical” style he employs?
There is a lot yet to know about how the general election is going to play out. It depends on when the Democrats sort out their own primary, who Mr. Trump picks as his Vice Presidential running mate, how his tone and rhetoric changes (or does not) going forward, whether Secretary Clinton’s legal troubles worsen and the style with which Mr. Trump engages the Secretary (bully or tough opponent). As these and many other elements play out, we will revisit this conversation.
This article was written by Greg Brown, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Apartment Association. Any questions or calls to action may be directed to Greg via email or 703-797-0615.