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Small business picks VP favorites

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The nation's small-business owners, in the dumps over the economy, want Republican Mitt Romney and Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as vice presidential candidates on their respective party's presidential ticket this fall, a new poll shows.

About 50 percent said labor costs and inflation, especially on gas and energy, represented "much larger problems than health care, and 72 percent believe that the federal government is bailing out Wall Street and big business," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.

Mr. Paleologos said 77 percent "believe the U.S. should open up the restricted oil reserves in Alaska and off-shore in Florida and California."

President Bush on Monday repealed an executive order banning offshore drilling and challenged the Democrat-led Congress to end its ban as lawmakers seek to ease the pain of escalating gas prices.

And in a commentary on how effective the presidential candidates have been in marketing their economic plans for small businesses, 80 percent said they have no idea how Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat Sen. Barack Obama plan to help them, the Suffolk University poll found.

Mr. Romney and Mrs. Clinton were the overwhelming choice for vice presidential candidates of small business owners, according to the poll.

On the Republican side, Mr. Romney was the top vice presidential choice of 43 percent, with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison at 3 percent each, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 1 percent and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist getting zero votes. Forty-seven percent said they didn't know or declined to answer the question.

Mr. Romney, a former chief executive officer of management consulting firm Bain & Company, last Wednesday began campaigning for Mr. McCain in unemployment-wracked Michigan. Before his failed bid for this year's nomination, he was credited with financially salvaging the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, and had a reputation as a sound fiscal manager when governor of Massachusetts.

For Mr. Obama's running mate, Mrs. Clinton was the choice of 49 percent of respondents. Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pulled 8 percent each, and retired Gen. Wesley Clark got 6 percent. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius got 1 percent each, with 25 percent saying they didn't know or refusing to answer.

"She is the more middle-of-the-road candidate, and people don't know who Obama is or what he wants to do, except to raise taxes," said George A. Cloutier, founder of American Management Services, a firm that consults for small business and which commissioned the poll.

Mr. McCain beat Mr. Obama by 28 percent to 17 percent on the question of which candidate has the best program for small business.

In the Paleologos-Suffolk University poll of 400 small-business owners, 33 percent identified themselves as Republicans, 22 percent as Democrats and 37 percent as independents.