With the U.S. Presidential election less than a week away, husband-and-wife power pundits James Carville and Mary Matalin gave NBAA attendees their expert, but divergent, opinions on the outcome at the second-day opening session.
“I think Trump is going to win,” said longtime Republican Party advisor Matalin. “I’m giving him 271 or 272 [electoral votes of the 270 required] and I can go through three maps to show how he can do it.”
“I think Hillary will win,” countered Carville, Bill Clinton’s former campaign manager, noting if Democrats win all the states they’ve carried in the last six elections, “you’re 28 short [of needed Electoral College votes]. Mary, you can see Trump’s got an avenue to 270, but you have to do two bank shots to get there.”
Their appearance at the show continues a quadrennial NBAA tradition of having the couple give their insights to the contest on the eve of the election. As for the tenor of this year’s campaign, most analysts “conclude we’ve never seen anything like this,” said Matalin, but she disagrees. “I’d say Kook versus Crook, we have seen many election cycles like this,” going back to the 1800s.
Nonetheless, it was clear both see the contest as marking a seismic shift in the political system. The pair also answered questions texted in real time from the audience, and posed by NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, who hosted the session. Asked to describe this election cycle in one word, Carville asked rhetorically, “Can I use two? ‘Holy moly!’” Matalin’s response: “Transitional.”
With the plethora of polls continuing to provide conflicting prognostications, Carville pointed to two coming out between now and election day that deserve attention: “The NBC-Wall Street Journal poll is the gold standard, and the Bloomberg poll is well done,” said Carville. “There’s different skill levels of pilots, and it’s the same thing with polls. It’s not like aviation where you’ve got everything mapped out. There’s a large, unpredictable nature to this [polling] business.”
Asked if the media is responsible for the polarization of public discourse, Matalin and Carville agreed its main cause is the electoral redistricting of the past four decades, which created safe zones for Democratic and Republican elected officials alike, allowing them to appeal only to their core constituencies, and freeing politicians to express ever greater degrees of antipathy toward opponents across the aisle.
The dialog was the main event in a session that included the presentation of the NBAA’s Meritorious Service Award, the organization’s highest honor, to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) for his legislative advocacy on behalf of general aviation, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s Combs-Gates Award to author David McCullough for his recent bestseller “The Wright Brothers.”
The standing-room-only crowd is mirrored in the size of this year’s gathering. More than 1,100 exhibitors are displaying in the exhibition hall, 100 aircraft are on static display at Orlando Executive Airport and another 17 aircraft—a dozen fixed-wing and five helicopters—are on indoor static display here at the Orange County Convention Center. Attendance is on track to match last year’s more than 27,000 attendees, according to NBAA.