New York — Ronald Reagan apparently has succeeded in convincing at least one group of voters of the importance of the US economy to the presidential election. That group is business leaders.
Many of them say they will vote for the Republican nominee Nov. 4 -- and the chief reason is Jimmy Carter's record.
In a series of recent interviews, these leaders often prefaced their political leaning with sentiments like, "I'm not very enthusiastic about either candidate, but . . ."
One such businessman is Robert Houser, president and chief executive officer of Bankers' Life Company in Des Moines, Iowa, who said: "I have the feeling I will lean the Reagan way in the hope that he will surround himself with capable people.I don't see any signs that President Carter has got his act together yet."
Added B. Z. Lee, managing partner of Seidman & Seidman, a national accounting firm: "As far as the election is concerned, I'm supporting Reagan largely because I think the record of the Carter administration is pretty miserable."
Another Reagan supporter, John Fisher, the chairman and chief executive officer of Ball Corporation, says Carter's record on inflation and "vacillation" in making decisions have influenced him to support the Republican.
Although most businessmen say the economic issues are what bother them the most, others are concerned about foreign policy. Robert Gintel, president of Equity Advisors, Inc., a Greenwich, Conn., money manager, says: "I think in terms of foreign affairs, we as a nation must decide whether or not we are going to fight for our freedoms as a leader in defense of the free world. . . . And in order to regain the confidence of our allies we must establish a cohesive foreign policy."
Bennett Goodspeed, senior partner at Inferential Focus, a management informational consulting firm, agrees that America's loss of "prestige" on the foreign policy front will influence him to vote for Reagan. The decline in competitiveness of US industry over the past four years, he says, has soured him on Carter.
However, George Weissman, the chairman and chief executive officer of Philip Morris Inc., defends Carter's foreign policy record, noting that he "has conducted his foreign policy with remarkable restraint. We have had four years without any soldiers going to war." He also believes Carter is the more conservative of the two candidates in terms of his tax policies since he has geared some of them specifically for business.
Mr. Weissman says he is supporting Carter because "he's had four years of very expensive and good on-the-job training, and I hope the next four years will be better. I think Carter can bring about a consensus of business, labor, minorities, and government in a better fashion than Reagan or Anderson can."
Weissman jokes that many of his fellow businessmen are "closet" Democrats. Recently, he served as chairman of a $1,000-a-plate dinner for the President and found many of his business associates told him they intended to vote for President Carter but couldn't publicly support the President by buying tickets to the dinner.