Donald Trump’s antagonism of the consulting industry is lingering even after his successful run for the White House with little industry help.
A host of Republican candidates were anticipating a Hillary Clinton victory on Election Day and sat poised to announce their candidacies within days or even hours of the presidential race being called.
Their consultants, in turn, were ready to start work — and billing for services. But Trump’s win has thrown those campaign plans out the window and created an uncertain political environment, which has these previously gung ho candidates backing away from plunging into their prospective races.
“It’s killing me,” one GOP consultant told C&E. “A week, two weeks ago people would have announced. People are announcing for governor, but not for Senate.”
For instance, the 2017 gubernatorial campaigns of New Jersey Democrat John Wisniewski and Virginia Republican Ed Gillespie have wasted no time getting out of the gate in mid November. But nationally it’s a different story, some consultants tell C&E.
Now, federal candidacies weren’t on an upward trend before Trump won the presidency. Since 2012, the number of candidates has been winnowing – at least for the House. In 2016, there were a total of 2421 House candidates, according to the FEC. That was down from 2596 in 2012. Senate candidates have stayed relatively steady. There were 463 in 2012 and 467 in 2016.
Those House numbers could have shot up to 2010 levels — when 2883 candidates ran for the lower chamber— with a Clinton win. In fact, before Trump’s upset victory, Republican consultants and their clients were rubbing their hands at the possibility of running against Clinton Democrats, particularly in the Senate where her party has 25 Senate seats (including two independents) to defend in 2018.
The landscape is much different today. While the GOP is publicly rejoicing at its control over the House, Senate and White House, Trump’s patented unpredictability has potential 2018 candidates playing wait-and-see.
While that might cause some consultants short-term pain on their balance sheets, it could help their clients in the long run, according to Jason Cabel Roe, a California-based Republican consultant.
“The environment is volatile and a lot of prudent candidates are going to want to wait and see what the environment is for them to run.”
For his firm, Roe added, they don’t expect to start billing next cycle’s clients until summer 2017 at the earliest.
“For a candidate, they could wait all the way up to January of next year,” he said, adding that it’s a “false premise” for challengers to have to get in early.
“It really depends on the quality of the candidate,” he said.
As for coaxing a recalcitrant candidate to take the plunge early, Roe warned against it. “There’s nothing worse than a reluctant candidate.”
Meanwhile, Casey Phillips, a GOP media consultant who works extensively with House candidates, said he hasn’t seen any reluctance on the part of new candidates to make a move.
While he had some potential clients take a pass who were eyeing runs that were contingent on the seat opening up because of an anticipated Clinton Administration appointment, most are still gearing up.
“It seems like 2018 has already started,” he said. “Politics moves on.”