Political realism presides at PDIS

From left to right: Gann, Baalman, Yates and Yenrick.

Charleston, S.C. — The NLBMDA isn't looking at the current November election forecast with an overly subjective lens. Though 66% of its members are casting their ballots for Trump this year, the association's Washington Town Hall presentation that took place at the 2016 ProDealer Industry Summit on Wednesday was rooted in the premise that the odds are not in Trump's favor at the moment.

As moderator (and VP of legislative and political affairs) Ben Gann put it, Trump currently has two challenges: winning all of the states that aren't completely in the bag for him right now, and then winning another state where he's not currently leading in the polls.

What's more, some of those battleground states are not traditional swing states.

"I don't think anybody even a month ago would have predicted that Arizona is now a tossup," he said. "Utah, which is one of the most reliably Republican states, is now a lean-Republican state. Trump is particularly unpopular in Utah."

Some more realities the association is grappling with: If Trump loses the popular vote, it's unlikely that Republicans will keep the Senate. That would require a lot of split tickets in a political environment that's become increasingly polarized over the last 16 years.

The effect of the Trump campaign on the rest of the Republican establishment was lamented at the panel. Scott Yates, president of Denver Lumber Company, noted that the Nancy Pelosi Super PAC has been going after two Republican candidates by linking them to Trump.

"We've spent so many years and a lot of effort to make [him] someone we can rely on," he said. "He's a real standup guy, so it's painful to watch."

As it stands, Republicans currently have an 8-seat advantage in the Senate and a comfortable majority in the House, but the majority promises to be tighter next year.

If Clinton wins, Gann said, Democrats would need a minimum of 4 seats in the Senate to get to 50, and then VP Tim Kaine would break that tie. They're confident about one of those seats, so it really comes down to who will win 3 of 5 seats in New Hampshire, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

In order for Democrats to take control of the House, they would need to net 30 seats, and Gann doesn't believe there are enough competitive seats for them this cycle.

To this end, Gann said: “Keep in mind we’re electing a president, not a dictator or an emperor."

Moving forward, LBM dealers will be working within the new framework next year — whatever it may be — to address the issues that are most important to dealers, like excessive government, healthcare costs, jobs and taxes.

One of the biggest pain points for the LBM industry at the moment is the new overtime rule, for example.

Chris Yenrick, president and COO of Smith Phillips Building Supply, believes advocacy will continue to be vital in this regard.

"We have to be vocal and let them know [how we feel], because when we first started bringing up the issue, Ben went to the Hill and said they’re not really hearing from anyone," he said. "They started hearing from people, and now you see some movement."

“For them to come up with a rule to willy-nilly double the amount and make it one size fits all was a bad thing," added Yates. "The fight that we’re putting up, I'll fight on behalf of every dealer in this nation. If we don’t put up this fight, they’ll win this fight and go on to the next battle, and the next thing they come up with could be as bad or worse than overtime.”

Offering a counterpoint was Harold Baalman, president and CEO of B&B Lumber Company.

"The reason this whole thing came about is because we as employers abused the system," he said. "Some guys are paying their workers $25,000 a year and work them 60 hours a week."

Baalman's solution to the new overtime rule involves dividing workers' current salaries into an hourly rate. At that point, "it's a wash," he said.

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