WASHINGTON, D.C. — Beltway consultants Frank Donatelli and Michael Lewan dusted off their long-running routine Tuesday, and imparted some political insight for a roomful of industry executives.
“As usual, you’re wrong,” Lewan quipped when Donatelli finished his opening assessment of the presidential race.
Lewan is a Democrat; Donatelli is a Republican. They are longtime friends, host a radio show together and frequently speak at events such as the Insured Retirement Institute’s Government, Legal and Regulatory Conference 2016.
They agreed on one thing before the IRI crowd: Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump is in big trouble. The real estate mogul will need to hang on to all the red states Mitt Romney won in 2012, and flip several toss-up states in order to have a chance at winning the election.
“Hillary Clinton will be our next president,” said Lewan, who heads The Michael Lewan Company, a consulting firm. Trump “has thrown away whatever opportunity he had because there are not enough angry white voters out there to give him a victory.”
Donatelli generally refused to mention Trump by name, repeatedly referring to him as “the Republican candidate.”
“The only way this works for him is if he puts states in play that haven’t been in play for a long time,” said Donatelli, executive vice president and director of federal public affairs for McGuire Woods Consulting.
If you were to boil the presidential race down to one state, Pennsylvania might be that state, both men agreed. Lewan put Trump’s odds at 10 percent.
Naturally, the consultants disagreed on whether the country is headed in the right direction. Lewan pointed to President Barack Obama’s relatively high 52 percent approval rating. Donatelli countered with the weak jobs report released last week, typical of what he called a historically slow economic recovery.
The benefit for Republicans, Donatelli said, is that even a Clinton win will be viewed as a negative that will help the GOP in future elections. Lewan countered by pointing to several close Senate races where Republican candidates will suffer with Trump heading the ticket.
Lewan uttered an unpopular name in the room when he put Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Clinton’s short list of vice presidential candidates. The DOL’s fiduciary rule is an anathema to the financial services industry.
“The guy is talented,” Lewan said. “Whether you agree with him or not, he beat the pants off the insurance industry on Capitol Hill.”
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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