The eyes of the political world were focused on Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night, as President Donald Trump went to Congress to deliver the annual State of the Union address. But before the president hit Capitol Hill, NAIOP members enjoyed an insider preview about pressing issues courtesy of a leading observer.
Bret Baier is the host of Special Report with Bret Baier on the Fox News Channel and serves as the chief political anchor for Fox News. He said he was invited to the White House on Tuesday for a presidential preview of the address. Instead, he kept an earlier appointment and delivered the keynote address at NAIOP’s Chapter Leadership and Legislative Retreat.
The reason for the scheduling conflict is that the presidential address on Feb. 5 is coming exactly a week later than originally scheduled. It was delayed because of the partial government shutdown that ended with a temporary spending agreement on Jan. 25. Lawmakers and the president haven’t yet agreed on a spending package to keep the government open after Feb. 15.
The shutdown is just one of the ways Washington is being disrupted. Baier noted that covering news today is like “drinking from a firehose,” especially since Trump can drive the news with a single tweet. “We have often torn up the show rundown based on a presidential tweet,” he explained. “Trump is communicating without using the mainstream media,” which is why he uses Twitter so often.
Baier knows Trump well enough to have played golf with him two years before the election. The president “is all about getting the ‘W’ [win], and doesn’t care how he does it,” he said. However, he added that Trump’s unpredictability has actually worked in his favor.
In the months before the 2016 election, Baier said he traveled the country and spoke with 27 different Uber drivers, with 25 of them saying they would vote for Trump. Most said they wanted to “kick the political table over” and bring in a complete political outsider. Although that’s what ended up happening, Baier said he and the entire Fox political team were surprised by Trump’s victory on election night.
Baier provided a preview of the State of the Union. He predicted Trump would announce a summit with North Korea during the speech. He would also tout the success of the 2017 tax cuts, and possibly call for Congress to pass the USMCA, a trade deal to update the North American Free Trade Agreement. In any future spending agreements, Baier said Trump probably will not get a “wall” on the Mexican border, but will get increased funding for border security. That may be enough for Trump to declare a win on the issue.
Trump does have accomplishments to tout. “He’s put more judges on the federal courts than any president before him,” Baier said. He also predicted that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may retire in June, allowing Trump a third Supreme Court pick. Baier added that, if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires or dies during Trump’s term, “that would be the most explosive nomination fight you could ever imagine.” Baier also said that Trump may talk up a prison reform bill he signed late last year.
As for other areas, “the possibility of an infrastructure deal is real” this year, Baier said. It’s exactly the sort of big-ticket item that, he said, everyone in D.C. agrees to. He also predicted a bipartisan agreement to slash the cost of prescription drugs. Still, “prospects for bipartisanship are mostly out the window,” Baier said, and that’s partly because of Trump’s own actions.
Will Trump seek reelection in 2020? Baier put the odds at 70-30 in favor. There are wild cards complicating the picture, including the Mueller investigation and an investigation by the Southern District of New York. Whether or not he does run, the Democratic field is wide open. Baier said Hillary Clinton “will not run,” but added there will be more than 20 candidates in the early primaries. Baier warned that debates might feature a random drawing to determine which candidate speaks in what order, and potentially over multiple nights of television coverage. He predicted that Howard Schultz could be a spoiler if he gets in; that’s why “so many Democrats are over-caffeinated” about a potential Schultz bid.
After the State of the Union, hundreds of NAIOP members will converge on Capitol Hill for meetings with senators, representatives and staffers. Some of the bipartisan visits include meetings with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.). They’ll discuss NAIOP’s 2019 priority issues: infrastructure and transportation, tax policy, and energy efficiency and environment, as well as local chapter concerns.
Rich Tucker is Director of Public Policy Communications at NAIOP, where he develops and executes communication strategies to raise the visibility of NAIOP’s advocacy work on behalf of the industry