Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric CEO and head of President Obama’s Jobs Council, is reportedly jumping the Obama re-election ship and defecting to the Mitt Romney camp, according to Fox Business’s Charles Gasparino.
If true, it would be a major blow to the Obama campaign’s image.
But hold on.
First off, Gasparino’s report isn’t based on statements made by Immelt, but rather the say-so of the CEO's friends. Furthermore, a GE spokesman has gone on the record saying reports of Immelt supporting Romney are “ridiculous.”
But let’s assume the rumors are true. What reason would Immelt have for abandoning the Obama campaign?
“Back when he agreed to advise the Obama administration on economics, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt told friends that he thought it would be good for GE and good for the country,” Gasparino writes in the New York Post. “A life-long Republican, Immelt said he believed he could at the very least moderate the president’s distinctly anti-business instincts.”
And although GE has greatly benefitted from its relationship with the U.S. government, gorging itself at the federal subsidies trough, Immelt is apparently dismayed that he can’t “fix” the president’s anti-business stance.
“…Immelt doesn’t think he’s had...much luck moderating the president’s fat-cat-bashing, left-leaning economic agenda of taxing businesses and entrepreneurs to pay for government bloat,” Gasparino writes.
To put it simply, Immelt has allegedly given up on the idea that he can move the left-leaning president towards the center, according to Immelt’s friends.
“The GE CEO, I’m told, is appalled by everything from the president’s class-warfare rhetoric to his continued belief that big government is the key to economic salvation,” Gasparino reports.
As one friend of Immelt put it: “Jeff thought he could make a difference, and now realizes he couldn’t.”
“Immelt’s conversion from public Obama supporter to a private detractor is important: It shows how even businessmen who feast off his subsidies worry about his overall economic agenda and its long-term impact on the economy,” Gasparino writes.
But if Immelt worries so much about the president’s long-term economic goals, why doesn’t he speak up?
It’s called “self-preservation.” Think about it: what does GE stand to gain should its CEO make his disdain for the president’s economic policies public?
“The president now routinely talks up his desire to tax businesses that create jobs overseas, and GE overseas expansion is well-documented. Nor does the company want to put all its green subsidies at risk,” Gasparino notes.
Then there is the likelihood that public displays of disapproval from GE executives would result in the president turning his “class warfare” gun on them. And what major company needs to deal with that kind of headache?
This is to say, Immelt will probably keep his mouth shut.
Still, according to friends of Immelt who spoke with the Fox Business reporter, the CEO’s disgust with President Obama’s economic policies is “real and palpable.” And despite official statements from GE spokesmen, Immelt’s friends claims he’s pulling for Mitt Romney and wants desperately to see the former Massachusetts governor defeat President Obama in the fall.
However, aside from the personal assurances of Immelt’s friends, are there any other signs that might indicate an Immelt defection? Actually, there might be:
In 2008, GE execs (who often take their giving cues from the guy at the top) gave over five times more to Obama than to McCain. This time around, GE executives have raised nearly twice as much for Romney as for Obama, and Romney isn’t even the nominee yet.
Then there are Immelt’s letters to the shareholders:
“We live in a tough era in which the public discourse, in general, is negative . . . American companies, particularly big companies, are vilified,” when “we need to work together to find a better way.”
In the words of Gasparino: “Sure doesn’t sound like an Obama booster to me.”
That is if this is all true.