During the grand opening keynote breakfast at the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) 2018 in Las Vegas, CNN’s John King and political strategist Karl Rove gave their views on the upcoming midterm elections and how tariffs could impact the automotive aftermarket industry.
With the elections less than one week away, King said the country is experiencing low unemployment and a booming economy, but there is national anxiety and both Democratic and Republican parties are facing an identity crisis. The mid-term debate is about taxes and jobs, trade, healthcare, immigration, and tweets and tone.
Based on midterm election maps, King reported that Democrats will likely take control of the House, while the current Senate map favors the GOP. Looking back through history, he showed the audience how much better the election results look for President Donald Trump compared to mid-term election results for past presidents.
He added the great unknown is what will happen post-elections, such as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s next move, blue wave subpoenas and if President Trump will be combative or bipartisan. King concluded, “We are in the age of disruption. President Trump is not the cause, but the amplifier. There is a global divide over trade, immigration and way of life.” Rove predicts the midterm elections will be so close that the events of the next few days will have a big impact on the results. He largely agrees with King on election results and also spoke about the much improved tax environment, low unemployment and the really strong economy. He concurred with King on the uncertainty of post-elections. Referring to President Trump, Rove said, “Who is going to show up in the oval office after the elections? We don’t know. We don’t know how he thinks and operates.”
According to Rove, the biggest issues facing a new Congress will be trade and tariffs. “It’s easy to start a trade war, it’s hard to have a winner,” said Rove. He stressed the need for clarity on the goal of tariffs, including whether or not it is to protect intellectual property (IP) rights.
In response to an audience question about how long should we expect the tariffs to continue, Rove said he has no idea, but added he worries about the impact on the economy and automotive aftermarket businesses. When asked if the imposed tariffs on steel are working, Rove said, “There are always winners and losers on tariffs. In my opinion, the steel tariffs are not working.”
When asked how the automotive aftermarket gets a seat at the table, Rove encouraged the audience to attend town hall events and fundraisers, and invite members of Congress to their businesses. “Carve out time to be involved in political campaigns. Over time, it will have a huge impact,” he said.
The AAPEX grand opening keynote breakfast took place Tuesday, Oct. 30, and was sponsored by Interstate Batteries. It also included a welcome from U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), and a state of the automotive aftermarket industry address by Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of the Auto Care Association, and Bill Long, president and COO of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA). JC Washbish, director of marketing, Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, introduced Rove to the AAPEX audience.
Hanvey and Long spoke about the tremendous transformation taking place in the automotive aftermarket, and encouraged audience members to become engaged in the industry and the political process. Both organizations offer legislative summits, with the 2019 MEMA Legislative Summit taking place April 30 - May 1, 2019, in Washington, D.C., and the Auto Care Association Legislative Summit being held in conjunction with Fall Leadership Days, Sept. 18 - 20, 2019, also in Washington, D.C.