Which Branches Support Which Candidate & Where Do U.S. Defense Companies Stand in This Election?

Courtesy the Washington Times

Approximately 500 retired U.S. generals and admirals on Monday officially endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, TheBlaze’s Erica Ritz reports.

And although it’s an impressive list, it is by no means a first for the former Massachusetts governor. You may recall that in the wake of the deadly attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, “Romney for President” last month announced the formation of a “Military Advisory Council” made up of more than 300 retired generals and admirals ready to endorse the GOP candidate.

“I am deeply honored to have the support of so many of our most accomplished military leaders,” Romney said in a statement.

“Together we will restore our military might and ensure that America can defend and protect our interests, our allies, and our people, both at home and abroad. I will never forget that the greatest responsibility of an American president is in exercising the role of commander-in-chief. That role is sacred, and when I am president, I will never put my own political interests ahead of our military and our men and women in uniform,” the statement adds.

Notable among those included in Romney’s “Military Advisory Council” are Army Gen. Tommy Franks, former Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway, former Pacific Command chief Adm. Timothy Keating, and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Hugh Shelton (who endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2008).

The announcement this morning surely serves as just another feather in Romney’s cap, right? Romney has the military vote all tied up, right? Not necessarily.

First, it should come as no surprise to Blaze readers that right up until both parties held their conventions, Texas Congressman Ron Paul was actually the clear favorite in terms of political donations from members of the U.S. armed forces.

Indeed, during the Republican presidential primaries, Rep. Paul enjoyed a healthy and almost unprecedented amount of financial support from the military and civilian employees of the military. However, and this is the part that may surprise a few Blaze readers, after Rep. Paul ended his bid for the White House, Romney’s already low volume of military donations failed to see much of an improvement while President Obama’s increased exponentially.

“[T]he military’s support has shifted toward Obama. Romney has consistently received little financial backing from military donors,” Michelle Martinelli writes for opensecrets.org.

“Despite the fact that Paul once raised almost twice as much as Obama did from the military, the president has received $536,414 from military donors, compared to Paul’s $399,274 and Romney’s $287,435,” the report adds.

Which Branches Support Which Candidate & Where Do U.S. Defense Companies Stand in This Election?All figures based on most recent donations greater than $200, as reported to the Federal Election Commission

Now, it’s important to note that although the amount raised by the president is greater than the amount raised by Gov. Romney, “eight of the 11 military branches the Center for Responsive Politics analyzed have given more to Republican presidential candidates — most notably the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps,” the Open Secrets report notes.

Which Branches Support Which Candidate & Where Do U.S. Defense Companies Stand in This Election?

What’s puzzling about the U.S. military’s financial support for the president is the fact that it is he, not Gov. Romney, who has proposed a $500 billion cut in military spending as part of that budget-balancing “sequestration.” Romney is the one who has proposed an increase in military spending. You’d think a certain amount of self-preservation would drive more military money toward Gov. Romney. (Then again, perhaps the military community doesn’t expect a Romney victory, meaning donations to President Obama are a similar but different type of self-preservation).

This brings us to our second point: U.S. companies that specialize in the development and production of arms.

Guess who they prefer?

If you guessed Mitt Romney, you’re a winner. Well, to be more accurate, the top U.S. companies that specialize in arms production support Romney over President Obama, but only by a relatively small margin.

Based on Business Insider’s helpful list of the top 25 biggest defense companies in the U.S. along with data mined on opensecrets.org, TheBlaze was able to determine how much cash the top players in the defense industry have poured into the 2012 election [Note: The following companies are considered “top” based on arms sales, total profits, and employees. Also, three of the top 25 companies are not presented in the graph below because donation data was unavailable]:

Which Branches Support Which Candidate & Where Do U.S. Defense Companies Stand in This Election?

Of course, this isn’t to say Romney has only the support of an industry that has an invested interest in his wining the election. As mentioned in the above, Romney has the support of hundreds of retired military professionals. But more than that, by a margin of almost two to one, he also has the support of active duty, National Guard, and military reserve members, according to a recent Army Times poll.

“The professional core of the U.S. military overwhelmingly favors Mitt Romney over President Obama in the upcoming election — but not because of any particular military issues, according to a new poll of more than 3,100 active and reserve troops,” the report reads.

Which Branches Support Which Candidate & Where Do U.S. Defense Companies Stand in This Election?

Source: opensecrets.org / Graph: Becket Adams

“Respondents rated the economy and the candidates’ character as their most important considerations and all but ignored the war in Afghanistan as an issue of concern,” the report adds.

The poll was conducted among active duty, National Guard, and reserve members who subscribe to the Army Times.

“This population is older and more senior than the military population at large, but it is representative of the professional core of the all-volunteer force,” the report explains.

“The 3,100 respondents — roughly two-thirds active-duty and one-third reserve component members — are about 80 percent white and 91 percent male. Forty percent are in paygrades E-5 through E-8, while more than 35 percent are in paygrades O-3 through O-5,” the report adds.

The biggest reason respondents said they prefer Romney? They say they trust him more with the fragile U.S. economy.

But if the polls are accurate, and active-duty members overwhelmingly support the GOP candidate, then why the disparity in political donations? Well, as you can see in the above chart of donations based on military branches, the lion’s share of President Obama’s military contributions come from two groups: The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army. Apparently, both groups are as keen to see the president re-elected as the defense industry is to see Mitt Romney increase military spending.

Now as to why the U.S. Army and the DOD are so heavily invested in re-electing President Obama, it is unclear. What we do know — without having to rely on theory and conjecture  — is that the president has outperformed Mitt Romney in military contributions and the U.S. Army and the DOD are most responsible for this.

Bottom Line: Although the president has done a better job raising cash from members of the U.S. armed forces, Romney has done a better job of courting very public military endorsements.

While the Romney campaign has the backing of literally hundreds of notable military names, the Obama campaign has about five: Wesley Clark, Richard Danzig, former Secretary of the Navy, Paul Eaton, Major General (Ret), Donald J. Guter, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, Michael D. Lumpkin,and John B. Nathman, retired U.S. Navy Admiral.

The money President Obama has raised from members of the U.S. military won’t hurt his campaign, but Romney’s success in cultivating an image of a candidate heavily favored by members of the armed forces will probably serve a much more powerful political purpose.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Front page photo source courtesy the AP. This story has been updated.

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