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Is John McCain Good for Business?

As the Arizona Senator closes in on the GOP nomination, backers of Mitt Romney's pure pro-business stance may have to bet on a different horse
John McCain "will be a leader on economic issues the same way he has been on foreign policy issues," a senior campaign adviser says.
John McCain "will be a leader on economic issues the same way he has been on foreign policy issues," a senior campaign adviser says. Ben Sklar/Getty Images

How will corporate America react if John McCain lands the Republican nomination? For business, Senator McCain (R-Ariz.) is a candidate of contradictions. He initially opposed President Bush's tax cuts, but now supports making them permanent. He has crusaded against the influence of corporate lobbyists, yet has more K Street fixers raising money for his campaign than any other Presidential candidate. And he says he's a full-bore, free-enterprise capitalist even as he admits that he hasn't understood economics as well as he should. "He doesn't fit neatly into a box," says GOP pollster Whit Ayres, who is unaffiliated with a Presidential candidate.

McCain posted strong progress Feb. 5 in his quest for the nomination, winning a string of key states including Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, and Oklahoma. If corporate leaders do fall in line behind McCain's candidacy after Super Tuesday voting it will be somewhat grudgingly. In 2007, business tilted its support heavily toward McCain's last remaining rival for the GOP Presidential nomination, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Romney is certainly a more natural cultural fit for business: As a founder of the investment firm Bain Capital, he's had a successful career in the private sector, which he speaks of repeatedly on the campaign trail, telling audiences he has the economy in his DNA. As voters were going to the polls Feb. 5, Romney warned that the nation's fragile economy needs an experienced leader: "We see our economy getting weaker. People wonder how they are going to pay their bills, gas bills, heating bills," he said.