November 15, 2016

2016 Election Analysis

Armstrong Robinson, Chris Mitchell

As the country digests the outcome of the surprising election, President-elect Donald J. Trump has undertaken the rights of passage for an incoming president and begun to map out the priorities for his administration.

The mandate is limited, but the fact that voters sent President-Elect Trump to Washington with Republican majorities in the House and Senate outlines a path for the next two years to shake up the policies of the last eight.

The Presidential Election

The resurgence of populism around the world and in the U.S. is well documented, and was evident in the Presidential primaries and general elections.  Donald Trump’s election over Hillary Clinton is the latest and most profound articulation of that phenomenon.  His victory reflects a sense among millions of Americans that they have been economically and culturally usurped in Washington by the priorities of coastal and urban America.

The political and economic disenfranchisement felt throughout rural America and in historically Democratic-leaning parts of the Rust Belt fueled Trump’s rise but, arguably, his victory was sealed by America’s pent up desire for change in Washington.  However one feels about President Obama’s record, voters did not get the transformational president they voted for eight years ago, and many saw Secretary Clinton as a perpetuation of the status quo.  In this election, the roughly seven percent of voters who waited until the end to decide their vote broke two to one for Mr. Trump.

President-Elect Trump won a decisive electoral victory on November 8th, but excitement over his surprise victory masks some important reality checks that undercut assertions of a mandate.

Both candidates possessed historic unfavorable ratings with voters. While Mr. Trump received about the same number of votes as Mitt Romney did in 2012, Secretary Clinton received about 4 million fewer votes than President Obama four years earlier.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (by about 1 percent or 1 million votes); more than 7 million voters (about 5 percent) chose someone other than the major party nominees.  Those divisions are likely to continue to shape our political discourse and may frustrate bipartisan policymaking

The Senate

On November 8th, Democrats netted two additional seats in the U.S. Senate.  As it stands today, Republicans will hold a 51-48 majority in the Senate (pending a December 10 runoff in the Louisiana Senate race, where Republican John Kennedy is favored) with seven new Senators due to join the upper chamber in 2017.

For the 48 Democrats who will comprise the Senate Democratic Caucus next year, the November elections were a great disappointment. They went into this election season with the very realistic hope of retaking the majority. A disproportionately high number of Republican-held Senate seats were in cycle this year, and many of those Republican seats were ripe for Democratic wins. Democrats did win in Illinois and New Hampshire, but failed to make a compelling case in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Notably, in eight of the twelve most competitive senate races this cycle the Republican nominee for Senate outperformed President-elect Trump.

In contrast to this year, a disproportionate number of Democratic Senators are up for re-election in 2018 – many of whom represent red states.  Leaders in both parties are well aware of this fact, which will remain a key focal point for the agenda in the next Congress.  You can find the complete list of Senators up in 2018 here.

The House of Representatives

Current election results give Republicans 238 seats and Democrats 193 Democrats.  Two races in California have not yet been called; Reps. Darrell Issa and Ami Bera have braved tough challenges and votes are still being counted.  Two safe Republican seats in Louisiana will go to a run-off on December 10th.  House Democrats netted at least six seats this election cycle.  The 115th Congress will have 55 freshman lawmakers.

Just as in the Senate, the results were a huge disappointment for Democrats. While few pollsters and experts gave Democrats much of a chance at retaking the House, the possibility at times over the course of this election season seemed real, but there was a high degree of confidence that Democrats would pick up more than 10 seats and perhaps as many as 20.

The First 100 Days

President-elect Trump campaigned as a political outsider. This affords him latitude to adopt pieces from both parties’ agendas, and complicates reasonable predictions about his approach to Congressional leaders.

President-elect Trump was in Washington on November 10th to meet with President Obama, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell during which he identified immigration, health care, and jobs as his top priorities.  The House Republicans’ and Speaker Ryan’s Better Way agenda takes on new importance in 2017 as a starting point for many of these items.  You can find the materials at www.better.gop.

Early in his term, President-Elect Trump will make a nomination to the Supreme Court and fill out his Cabinet (all requiring Senate confirmation). During the campaign, he indicated a desire to rescind quickly a number of President Obama’s Executive Orders and roll-back several of the most aggressive regulatory initiatives. In addition, the President-elect’s immediate agenda will include regulatory reform and and a fiscal deal addressing the debt limit.

On the jobs front, President-Elect Trump is calling for hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investments. It is not clear how he will seek to structure or finance this proposal, and he may face headwinds from some hardline conservatives who want to see a devolution of the federal surface transportation program, for which Vice President-Elect Pence has advocated. In addition, he will join with Speaker Ryan to push for comprehensive tax reform which is looking more promising than it has in years. Also, he will drop U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, put a hold on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, seek to reopen NAFTA, label China as a currency manipulator, and seek greater penalties for dumping and intellectual property violations by trade partners.

Contextually, all of these big issues could well be at play just as America faces a cyclical economic downturn in 2017 or 2018.

 To learn more about the Trump Transition plan, visit www.greatagain.gov.


Chris Mitchell

With more than fifteen years of experience in public policy, Chris offers clients’ strategic counsel and advocacy on a variety of policy issues before Congress and Executive Branch agencies. He works primarily with the firm’s technology and transportation clients. His experience on transnational issues, including those that impact the digital currency industry, makes him a valued member of our foreign policy and trade practice. Prior to joining Prime Policy Group, Chris spent more than eight years working for members of Congress from the State of California.

Armstrong Robinson

Armstrong has been getting things done in Washington for more than a decade. Directly for Members of Congress and for Clients, he has developed astute game-plans including coalitions, communications, legislative and political strategies for positively affecting outcomes. Army works with Prime Policy Group’s  clients in areas including Tax, Energy, Healthcare, Appropriations, Budget, Financial Services, Technology and Data.