USA Presidential Election Date: November 8

A Shame One of These Has to Win?

It is rare when you can draw such a clear contrast between a World Series and a presidential race. The Cubs may have won the series, but for most of the country outside of Cleveland or Chicago, a championship for either team would have been something to celebrate. As one sportswriter put it, the “beauty of this World Series was that — regardless of outcome — one team was going to win it . . . when the longest suffering American League team — the Indians — takes on the longest suffering National League team — the Cubs — that’s a special moment.” The title of another column said it more succinctly: “In this World Series, it’s a shame someone has to lose.”

Unfortunately, a column describing how most Americans feel about our presidential election might accurately be titled, “It’s a Shame One of These Has to Win.”  This is not intended to insult those who strongly support either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, but is simply a statement of fact as to what the polls tell us is historically low voter satisfaction among most of the populace when it comes to the choice for president. Clinton and Trump are the most unfavorable candidates in 30 years of ABC/Washington Post polling, with Clinton having an unfavorability rating of 56 percent, and Trump doing even worse at 63 percent. No one could blame voters who echo the sentiment that “this is the worst presidential campaign in modern history.”

And yet, next week this election will most likely be over (assuming, heaven help us, there isn’t an Electoral College tie). Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be elected president of the United States of America, and that person will have to govern a bitterly divided country. As an industry, commercial real estate will face stiff challenges in the public policy arena no matter who wins. Tax legislation – whether it be a broad rewrite of the tax code or, alternatively, narrower and focused attacks on individual tax provisions important to real estate (such as Section 1031 like-kind exchanges or carried-interest compensation for real estate partners, for example) – will be a source of intense advocacy for NAIOP. Similarly, our nation’s infrastructure deficit and its long-term drag on commercial real estate development will be a priority, as will financial issues affecting lending to commercial real estate, environmental matters and reasonable legislation affecting the energy-efficiency of building codes.

Frankly, on some of these matters, such as tax policy, divided government will be our friend. It will prevent the worst rhetorical excesses of either side from being realized. On other matters, such as infrastructure spending, divided government may hinder our agenda since both sides will have to work together to achieve meaningful advances. In an era where civility and compromise are not readily rewarded, this will be a challenge. Already, partisans on both sides are discussing how to hold their respective leadership accountable to their ideological agendas. For Republicans, the aftermath of the Trump dynamic could pose a problem for House Speaker Paul Ryan. And the progressive wing of the Democratic party, led by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, are already pre-emptively challenging a Hillary Clinton administration on cabinet appointments and the next Democratic leadership in the Senate on compromising with Republicans.

But that is all for after the election. For next Tuesday, the question is “who is more likely to win?” A fun link to visit is 270 To Win, where you can create your own electoral map and determine whether Clinton or Trump wins each state’s electoral votes (you need 270 electoral votes to win – hence the name). Analysts talk of the “blue wall” that favors Democrats – more electoral votes are from Democratic states than Republicans. Republicans have to win more of the “battleground states” to win the presidency.  Largely for this reason, Clinton is a favorite to win.

On election night, I will be watching New Hampshire and North Carolina in particular. If you assume Trump wins Florida and Ohio (where he has narrowly led), and give him traditionally Republican states (Arizona, Georgia, Utah), he must still “flip” some Democratic states.  If Trump wins New Hampshire, a state with a lot of Independents that has polled for Clinton recently, then the “change message” won out, and could play out similarly in other areas. Democrats won North Carolina in 2008, lost it in 2012, and it remains a toss-up, and Trump probably cannot win without it. If Clinton wins North Carolina, her campaign’s traditional ground game will have shown to be effective, probably to be repeated in other states, and she will be president. But if both New Hampshire and North Carolina go for Trump, it could be a very late night for Hillary Clinton and Democrats, with the nightmare of a 269-269 tie a realistic possibility.

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