PhillyDeals: Republican business leaders split on Romney vs. Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (left) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney squared off in the debate in Orlando, Fla.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (left) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney squared off in the debate in Orlando, Fla. (PHELAN M. EBENHACK / Associated Press, pool)
Posted: September 25, 2011

Philadelphia's Republican business owners are weighing where to invest for next year's presidential race. Here's one for Romney, one for Perry:

Manny Stamatakis, chief executive officer at corporate employee-benefit consultant Capital Management Enterprises Inc. in King of Prussia and longtime donor to Pennsylvania Republicans, read Gov. Rick Perry's book and came out swinging for the Texan.

"I like him personally," he said of rival front-runner Mitt Romney. But he prefers Perry's record as governor of a state known for having "no income tax, no inheritance tax, no tax on dividends, tort reform, caps on noneconomic [lawsuit] damages, all of which were put in" or maintained "with Perry as governor."

Stamatakis agrees with Perry's argument that the United States can't afford Social Security or Medicare at today's tax and spending levels.

He likes that Texas continues attracting jobs, and immigrants, while the stalled financial and housing industries have stopped growth in Romney's Massachusetts and other states. And he prefers Perry's ongoing 11-year tenure as governor, to Romney's one prerecession term.

Stamatakis mailed hundreds of invitations to a meeting the Perry camp plans in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

He got pushback from "a few" moderates who think Perry comes across as an extremist who can't win. Stamatakis told them to remember people said that about Ronald Reagan, too.

"We've got 2008 all over again," Stamatakis concluded. "People are still looking for change."

No Confederates

The weak economy and the flat housing market aren't treating Mitchell Morgan too badly.

His company, Morgan Properties, of King of Prussia, the biggest apartment landlord in New Jersey, is prospering now that more people are renting instead of buying homes. It's preparing an $800 million initial public stock offering on Wall Street.

"My industry's doing great," Morgan said last week.

But Morgan said he's worried that even profitable corporations have grown reluctant to invest and hire in the United States - and Washington isn't helping: "You have uncertainty about tax regulations, uncertainty about health care, uncertainty about banking. You even have [President] Obama talking about taxing municipal bond interest.

"We are talking ourselves into a recession because you really don't know what's going to happen next."

Morgan is a blue-chip Republican donor. He has been host to George W. Bush and John McCain fund-raisers at his Main Line home and helped organize Israel supporters for the GOP.

Like Stamatakis, Morgan said he wanted Obama to succeed after the 2008 election, despite the party divide. Both said Obama has failed to break the logjam in Congress between Democrats who want more stimulus spending and Republicans who refuse to raise taxes.

So this time, Morgan is backing Romney, onetime governor of Massachusetts and longtime boss of buyout investor Bain Capital Partners L.L.C., ex-owner of Burger King, Staples, and other household brands.

"Three months ago, I had Romney at my house for dinner with just eight of us, and subsequently for a fund-raiser," Morgan said. "I'm convinced he should be our nominee. It's time to have a real businessman run the White House."

Why Romney, who has backed government-mandated health insurance and other tax-funded programs, instead of one of the candidates sworn to slash federal spending and let business and labor recover at their own pace?

"If Republicans are to take Pennsylvania and Florida and Ohio, they need an independent who is middle of the road, as opposed to [Michele] Bachmann, Perry, or [Sarah] Palin," Morgan told me.

Plus, he's turned off by Perry's comments, such as his past warning that Texas might try to pull out of the United States again.

That doesn't play, Morgan said, in business and Republican centers like Philadelphia's Union League club: "I want a president who's a grown-up. Who doesn't just shoot from the hip."


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

 

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