Thursday, January 19, 2012

President as CEO?

Andrew Ross Sorkin had a column in the New York Times this week defending the role that private equity plays in the economy. The idea is, I guess, that all the talk about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital has somehow unfairly turned into an attack on venture capital, private equity, and other investment entities.

What it raised for me is a different question: Does Mitt Romney help his chances of being elected President by running on his business experience?

Now, it may be that he has no choice. That's his hand, along with his governorship of Massachusetts and his role in the Olympic games in Utah, and he has to play it. And particularly in the Republican primary, his business experience sounds more compelling than his Massachusetts political career.

But what about the general electorate?

How do Americans feel about business and business leaders?

In 2008, before the Wall Street imploded and took the U.S. economy with it, a poll of average Americans found that only 11% said they had "a great deal of confidence" in the people in charge of major corporations, while 35% said they had "hardly any confidence." And that was during the good times!

Then in 2009, as the economy deteriorated, 70% of Americans said that people on Wall Street were not as honest and moral as other people. When asked to rank the honesty and ethical conduct of different occupations, business executives came in near the bottom of the list: given a choice of "most admired" professions, "business executive" came in at 21 out of 23 choices.

Which raises a question: If your campaign is based on a career in private equity, as a CEO/business executive, how do you turn that to your advantage?

And what's your campaign slogan: Mitt Romney--He's Kinda Like a Wall Street Guy, But Not Really, Except When It Comes to Experience, But You Can Trust Him, Because He's Not Like the Other Wall Street Business Guys!

We're gonna need a bigger button!

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