As president, Donald Trump has mostly made speeches outside the White House to politically charged groups that donated heavily to his campaign, or at massive rallies to support other Republicans running for Congress.
This afternoon, though, he’ll address a different audience—the National Association of Realtors’ legislative conference in Washington, DC. The NAR, as it is known, has been hosting conventions since 1908, and is a major lobbying force on everything from flood insurance to banking regulations.
The group’s national meetings are sometimes raucous affairs, an occasion for some of its more than 1 million members to bond between panel sessions on the latest real estate marketing techniques and property valuation workshops, and let their hair down a little.
They have attracted presidents in the past, including an infamous Richard Nixon speech in November 1973, when he vowed not to resign over Watergate. (He stepped down less than a year later.)
Trump once compared real estate agents to “bloodsuckers” on the 2016 campaign trail, and has previously stayed away.
He can’t ignore the group any longer. The NAR is full of a key demographic that Trump needs to keep on his side if he’s going to win in 2020: white, middle-aged, college-educated women. As the group’s website notes, the typical realtor right now is a “54-year-old white female who attended college and was a homeowner.” And 67% of all realtors are female, up from 63% the year before.
In 2016, Trump won 45% of the vote among college-educated white women (and 62% among non-college-educated white women), but his support slipped among Republican women after the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. Polls show that women have been moving away from the Republican party for years, and Trump could be exacerbating the problem, strategists have been warning for months.
Trump’s 2020 campaign appears acutely aware of this. During his rally in Florida earlier this month, the crowd right behind him (which is curated by his campaign with an eye to what TV viewers see) included plenty of white, middle-aged women.
The NAR doesn’t just represent a big pool of women voters. It’s also a money-raising powerhouse: The trade group donated $17 million to candidates in the 2018 election, a new record. The NAR’s donations have historically been split between Democrats and Republicans, though, and Trump wasn’t a big recipient in 2016. Whether members will put their cash, or their votes, behind Trump in 2020 is still to be decided.