Top Takeaways from AAPEX Keynote Speakers Karl Rove, James Carville

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

AAPEX Live 2022 Coverage

This year’s AAPEX Keynote Session was the hottest ticket in Las Vegas, with co-headliners Karl Rove and James Carville providing context and insight to the political climate just before election day next week. Ann Wilson, SVP government affairs, AASA, and Lisa Foshee, SVP government affairs, Auto Care Association, moderated a conversation that touched on the election, advice for aftermarket business leaders and their take on what the country needs going forward.

Here are the top talking points from two of the top minds in politics.

The election

Carville: Often the elections are, by and large, driven by presidential approval and direction of the country. And both of them are horrific. It’s a really tough cycle for Democrats. We didn’t do as well as a lot of people would hope we’d do in 2020. We picked up two Senate seats from Georgia, but we have a horrific 2021 in Virginia, New Jersey, and a lot of places. But, we kind of bounced back over the summer.

It does feel to me like the way the presidential approval and direction of country, there is a pretty significant headwind going into the election.


Rove: The Democrats did have an advantage in the summer. We had the Dobbs decision, and that drew media attention and energized democratic women who were previously somewhat apathetic. And then, we had August 8th, with the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. That was the headline, and that’s what drew partisans on both sides.

Since the middle of September, things were drifting out. The Gallup is out with a new poll. President’s job approval is 40%; 49% say the economy is poor. Only 14% say excellent or good; 17% say the country’s off on the right track; 70-some-odd percent say it’s going in the wrong direction. The Democratic Congress has a 21% approval rating.

We’ve had in our history only two first midterm elections where the party that held the White House gained seats in the House, and that was 1934 and 2002. Republicans are going to take the house. No ifs, ands, or buts. I think it’s Republican to take the Senate, but it’s a little bit different. We’ve got what’s called Class III here. We would elect only a third of the Senate each two years. Class III is difficult for Republicans. There are 21 Republicans up. Two of the seats, one with an incumbent, one an open seat in states that Joe Biden won. And, there are 14 Democrats up. None of them in a state that Donald Trump won.

Now, admittedly, three of them are in states that are close. Arizona won by 3/10s of a percent, Georgia, 3/10s of a percent, and Nevada, about 2.5%. So those three are at risk in any given year.

The Republicans are going to take the House. I think they take the Senate, but it’s not as easy in the Senate as it is in the House.

What it means for business

Rove: For business, the bigger the margin for Kevin McCarthy, the more it marginalizes the people who want to spend their time on things that get them on Fox News. That’s my job. As opposed to doing their job, which is legislative.

Bipartisan support to get things done

Rove: We saw the passage of gun reform legislation from Murphy, Connecticut Democrat. Cornyn, Texas Republican. We had the passage of the China semiconductor chips bills. We had an infrastructure bill. All of which were passed–not by the White House saying go and do these–but by members of Congress saying, “We didn’t come here just to be in food fights. We came here to get things done.” As a result, Republicans and Democrats found a way to work together.

So, my counsel would be the Republicans better be focused on offering constructive ideas for the future of the country. Let the Democrats respond, and let the President respond, but have an agenda that people say, “You know what? It makes sense to do something about that.”

No big, gigantic, transformational things, but the incremental reform that we’ve come to expect from Congress that we haven’t been seeing. We’ve got too much that’s being done from the top down and not enough that is being done by the members themselves working through the normal ordinary process.

It happened last year with three big measures. And it was constructive for the country.

Carville: I give this advice to everybody: We’ve got to find somebody under 75 to run this country.

I like President Biden. He’s an affable man. He’s really has a remarkable career. He’s done some remarkable things. … But, I think that we got to take the training wheels off and get people to do this. After this election, if it goes like Karl thinks it’ll go, how I fear it might go, there’s going to be a real reckoning. The way that you solve reckonings is you have a large primary of people running for President, so somebody becomes the face of the party.

Rove: I couldn’t agree more. It’s 1959 in America. We got Dwight D. Eisenhower. He did great things for our country in World War II. He led D-Day. He was a good President. But he was the last President born before World War I.

By 1960, the country said, “You know what? Thank you, those of you who’ve been around for that amount of time. But, we want to pick between one of these two young guys who are veterans of the Pacific Theater and World War II.” Two 40-year-olds. Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. And, that ushered in the era of the Greatest Generation serving us as President: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush.

In 1992, the country said, “You know what? Thank you, Greatest Generation, but it’s time now to turn to the Baby Boomers.” In came Bill Clinton. Then it was Clinton and Bush and Obama and Trump. And now we got Biden, who is the oldest member of the Baby Boomer generation.

The country is not going to have an 82-year-old and a 78-year-old competing in 2024. The country is going to demand that we turn this over to a younger generation because this job demands it.

I was there for seven years. I had hair, and it wasn’t great when I went in. There’s a reason why this ages everybody who has the job, and that’s because it is probably the most demanding post on the world.

The country is going to demand it. We’re not going to tolerate it. We want to have a new generation that steps up and takes up leadership for our country.