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The Candidates. The Primaries. The Election.

TAmy Walterhe 2015 start of the presidential election season was cluttered – lots of candidates in the race, wild opinions being spoken, and pundits from every angle trying to figure it all out.

A few weeks ago, The Cook Political Report National Editor Amy Walter thought that, by now, she’d be ready to speak to the NAIOP leadership with enough certainty about the race to make some strong predictions. But, as she said today to 300 attendees at the annual Chapter Leadership & Legislative Retreat, no such luck. She is still trying to figure it out, too.

Walter shared her outlook on the race today and where it all stands. Here are a few of her points:

  • Bernie-mania: Liberal Democrats are as frustrated with President Obama as Republicans are, and so they are looking toward candidate Bernie Sanders. The left has shifted even more so, and the Democratic Party is far more liberal than when Bill Clinton ran in 1992. The party’s “moderate center” philosophy has changed. Bernie Sanders is capitalizing on this and is gaining ground.
  • Hillary Clinton is a transactional candidate – she’s essentially walking through a to-do list. Bernie Sanders is an inspirational/aspirational candidate who is creating a new energy.
  • There’s a sense of unease regarding Clinton’s email scandal and whether she is an approachable candidate who is really reaching voters. Even so, Clinton’s path to the nomination is still far easier than Sanders’. It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s largely achievable.
  • The Republican Party is at a crossroads – divided ideologically and demographically. They feel past Republicans have let them down, and they are frustrated with the swift change to the nation’s culture. Some Republicans say the party needs to move beyond gay marriage and immigration; others are committed to supporting a party that they feel exemplifies their value systems.
  • Republicans – and not just evangelical ones – are leaning towards untraditional candidates to shake up Washington. They don’t want status quo – they want someone who is going to change the debate and, perhaps, change the way Washington works forever.
  • There’s no obvious Republican “establishment candidate.” Marco Rubio could be the guy, but he hasn’t been able to coalesce the party support behind him.
  • The March 15 “winner-take-all” states hosting Republican primaries will make the call on the candidate. The Super Tuesday winner of Florida, Illinois and Ohio will get 234 delegates and will be hard to beat.
  • Two important issues in the general election: 1) The “Time for Change” mood. This is typical after a party has held office for eight years. This could be bad for Clinton as she is seen as part of the longtime establishment. 2) The changing American electorate. There is a demographic movement in the country, and the nation is diversifying at a rapid clip. Republicans feel they lost the last two elections because they didn’t rally their base, but the real reason lies in that the candidates didn’t inspire voters from across the Republican electorate to get out and vote. Republicans have to reach millennials, evangelicals and beyond, and they need a strategy to reach those groups.
  • VP outlooks? Clinton could look toward a liberal, progressive partner to gain the support of party members who are seeking that ideology. Could there be a two-woman ticket with Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren? Who could attract millennial voters? The old tradition of choosing a vice president based upon the Electoral College map has almost gone by the wayside. Personalities matter.

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