A political strategist for the nation’s largest business advocacy group said it is essential that voters turn away from the country’s deep partisan divide and vote for pro-business candidates to help bring the economy back to pre-pandemic levels.
“As Senator John McCain used to always say, elections have consequences. We’d hate to see all the economic progress we’ve made in the past few years dialed back,” said Scott Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that represents the interests of more than 3 million businesses.
Reed gave his take on the upcoming elections and what’s at stake for Arizona last week during the new Leadership Series hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The virtual Federal Political Update event was presented by Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie and Arizona Strategies.
Reed, a frequent analyst on national news shows like Meet the Press and in newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, talked about the “unusual” 2020 presidential race, what the opinion polls are saying, and what voters can do to help bring the economy back.
A force for Republicans
A force in his own right, Reed’s political strategy career goes back decades including as campaign manager for Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996. He has held executive positions within the GOP and his work has been lauded for aiding Republicans to gain control of both the House and the Senate in 1994 for the first time in more than 40 years.
Here are some of the takeaways from the event:
Most unusual presidential race
Reed, who oversees the Chamber’s federal voter education program, dubbed this presidential race as one of the most unusual in his career.
For now, it’s too soon to pick a winner, he said. Democrat Joe Biden is leading in the polls, ranging from 4 to 10 points ahead. But recent surprising surveys about the candidate show why this election is so unpredictable, Reed said.
One, a poll by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News, revealed that 58 percent of voters who support Biden say their vote is more about opposing President Trump.
“That’s a shocking number and, to me, that means a vote for Biden is really a vote about hatred for Trump,” Reed said.
Another surprising statistic is Trump’s high disapproval rating. A recent Gallup poll showed that 55 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s performance. And the Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey indicated that 50 percent of Americans “strongly disapprove.”
“Thats a shocking number. We call that a 50 percent problem when you have half of something against you. That’s usually a dangerous sign.”
Trump continues to win points for his record on jobs and the economy, but he has lost support for turning issues like the pandemic into partisan battles.
Trump’s good works overshadowed
Meanwhile, Trump’s accomplishments in areas like the economy, eliminating government red tape, and the passage of the new United States Mexico-Canada Agreement, are often overshadowed by his personality, Reed said.
He creates “conversations and controversies daily,” he said.
“Trump is the dominant figure in politics and in life today. At times, he has no ideology. He has no political objective. He tweets at all hours and he’s always transactional — ‘What am I getting?’”
Biden will need to temper the radical left
If Biden is elected, it will be important for him to use his decades of Washington experience to temper extremism in the liberal ranks that could hurt economic recovery, Reed said.
He spoke of the phenomenon of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), whose young age and inexperience have done nothing to slow her quick rise to power. Her costly message of federal jobs guarantee, Medicare for all, elimination of ICE, and the Green Deal resonates with progressive millennials.
With today’s “super polarized” environment, voters must look to their congressional candidates in the coming elections, Reed said.
Republican stronghold in Senate good for economy
The strength and growth of the American economy before the pandemic can be tied directly to the Republican controlled Senate under the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Reed said.
McConnell has kept the country’s economy on track with his decision-making on what makes it to the Senate floor, he said. He has been an important buffer in favor of sensibility.
“Our priority is to maintain a pro-growth Republican senate with Mitch McCconnell as leader.”
Arizona a battleground state
Arizona will be one of the most important states to watch, Reed said.
The U.S. Chambers is backing business-friendly candidates who have proven they can work in a bipartisan manner, citing U.S. Senator Martha McSally as an example.
McSally has been a champion for business in Arizona and the nation in helping companies during the pandemic, leading efforts to get the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan in place, and the passage of the new USMCA free trade pact, Reed said. This year, McSally received leadership awards from the U.S. Chamber for her work on behalf of industry and her voting record on bipartisan legislation.
Encourage employees to vote
As voters head to the polls, the biggest question voters should be asking is how to spur growth and jobs, Reed said.
“There needs to be a lot more discussion from all of us about reopening the economy and creating new jobs and getting people back to work,” Reed said. “That’s what people want and that’s what we need if we’re going to be successful and get out of this mess.”
With expectations for a large voter turnout, it’s important for employers to encourage employee participation, Reed said.
“People respond to their leadership…not to tell them who to vote for but to just vote.”