Brondeau's perspective should matter. He is solidly entrenched in the 1 percent, the politically charged term for the wealthiest Americans. He is a new American citizen and eager to cast his first presidential ballot. And he is particularly thoughtful, defying being politically pigeonholed.
It was only about a year ago, in September 2011, that Brondeau, a former Rohm & Haas executive who has lived in the United States since 1984, swore allegiance to the United States, saying that Philadelphia was his new Paris and that he wanted to participate in the U.S. elections.
It was a big step for a man whose father and grandfather were French military officers and who, as a young boy, lived in Algeria during its war of independence from France. Brondeau took his oath of citizenship at the immigration building at 16th and Callowhill Streets with 65 others. He told the group that he and they were lucky to be new Americans.
On his way out the door that day, Brondeau registered to vote.
Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock read about it in The Inquirer and mailed Brondeau a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol. Brondeau framed the flag, which now hangs on his wall in the 23d-floor office on Market Street, the one with a television constantly tuned to CNBC without sound.
Brondeau said last week that he was a "Democrat at heart" because of his upbringing in France, but that he was leaning toward Romney. He'd like to hear fewer negative ads and see a debate without a moderator. "You can see how they interact and it's less artificial," he said.
The Obama campaign misses the mark, Brondeau said, by focusing on higher tax rates for the richest Americans and ignoring broader economic issues - $16 trillion in debt and a difficult regulatory environment.
"That's most of what they talk about - taxing the rich," Brondeau said. "I don't think that alone will turn around the economy in the U.S. We need jobs."
Brondeau was compensated about $6 million in 2011, including stock awards and incentive pay, as FMC's chairman and chief executive, and he could take a tax hit in a second four-year Obama term.
"It would not change my life," Brondeau said. "I mean, I am making good money, and I don't have a crazy lifestyle. . . . So, you know, what if I'm taxed a little bit more? It will not be what is changing my life. . . . I'm hearing a lot about the rich have to pay to ease taxation on the middle class, but you know there has to be something else in his program."
Brondeau, who married an American woman, Melissa, and raised two sons here, appreciates Obama's "social agenda," just as he has high regard for the benefits of France's national health-care system.
"In my wife's family, I see people struggling to pay their medical bills because they don't have health protection. And those were good people who had good jobs and worked all of their lives, and here they are, they are getting old and struggling with the type of medication they have to buy or the type of test they have to do," Brondeau said.
"I have to believe that over time that these people will be better taken care of by an Obama plan than a Romney plan."
But at the moment economic concerns take precedence.
Brondeau is disappointed in Romney's lack of details over spending cuts, closing loopholes, and deficit reduction. But he says the Republican "just understands the ins-and-outs" of business. "I mean, he has been around people who are making the economy go. He has been close to CEOs. He has been close to companies. He's been himself a CEO.
"I think private equity is not a bad school at all. We say private-equity people kill jobs, but I can tell you that they create jobs, too."
One of Brondeau's biggest issues is the current regulatory environment that, he says, is difficult on businesses.
Brondeau hears of these concerns both as head of FMC, a specialty chemical company with $7.8 billion market capitalization, and as the vice chairman of his industry's trade group, the American Chemistry Council.
"Life is not easier with the EPA," Brondeau said. "That's where I'm worried about Obama coming back in power with this administration. I don't think he's surrounding himself with people who have a pragmatic understanding of the economy and industry," he said.
Between now and Election Day, Brondeau said, he would do his homework on the candidates.
"If I put my CEO hat on only, I would vote for Romney today," Brondeau said. "I would vote for Romney in a heartbeat.
"If I put more of my social hat on, I would vote for Barack Obama."
Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or email@example.com.