How's another Clinton grab you?

Operators, leaning toward the Democrats, choose Hillary. If restaurant owners chose the next president, she’d be elected by a slim margin—and face an onslaught of concern that she’d actually be bad for business.

In a September survey of 161 Restaurant Business readers, Hillary Clinton received 24 percent of the vote, beating out Rudy Giuliani, who got 22 percent. None of the other 2008 presidential candidates came close.

But negative feelings about Clinton run high. Fully 34 percent of those surveyed said Clinton would have the worst impact on business and the economy. That’s almost half again as many as who would vote for her. Only 24 percent said she’d make the most positive impact on the economy, followed by Giuliani with 21 percent. Republican Fred Thompson was the next closest, with just under 11 percent saying he’d be best for business.

Forty-five percent of respondents lean Republican, 37 percent lean Democrat, the rest lean neither way.

Nonetheless, a commanding 68 percent of all respondents believe that the next president will be a Democrat, despite lackluster polling for Barack Obama and John Edwards, the only other significant contenders for the Democratic nomination. That number may be linked to restaurant operators’ feelings about George W. Bush: 68 percent of those surveyed don’t like the job he’s done.

At the moment, Clinton’s lead comes from voters like Evan Selby, who describes himself as “nonpartisan.” Selby is director of operations and sales for Prestige Events, which operates a catering business and fine-dining restaurant in Carmichael, California. He voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger and appreciates what that Republican has done for small business. But like other independent voters this election season, Selby finds himself leaning Democratic, and to Hillary Clinton.

“There are some things about Hillary that outright scare me,” he says, mentioning the potential expense of her health-care policy. “But at the same time, taxation, licensing, workmen’s comp requirements—a lot of the things that we’re actually required to carry for small businesses cost a lot more under Bush.”

Indeed, 30 percent of respondents with no party affiliation said they’d vote for Clinton, compared to 20 percent who’d vote for Giuliani, the Republican who got the most votes from that group. Alan Schwartz, an independent, feels that Giuliani will do a better job than Clinton at national security. “He’s hard-nosed and tough,” says Schwartz, who owns Bistro Al Vino, a wine bar in Centennial, Colorado.

Foreign policy is Schwartz’s primary concern, especially given that one of his sons is serving in Iraq. As far as business goes, Schwartz is unconvinced that any president can do much that will actually affect him. “Hopefully [a Republican president] would take a handle on immigration and employment, but unfortunately I don’t see how the president touches a small businessman,” he says.

Schwartz is in the minority; 74 percent of respondents said that domestic policy is more important than foreign policy when picking a candidate. Mark Lawrence, who owns Polar Cave, an ice cream shop in Mashpee, Massachusetts, supports Mitt Romney. Lawrence says of Romney’s term as governor, “He was good for our economy and he knows how to run government like a business.”   

If a candidate walked into your restaurant...

Here are some of the questions that operators said they’d ask    

  • What’s your position on the minimum wage?
  • Do you have a business? If so, how are you providing health care to your employees?
  • What’s your plan to address global warming?
  • Why are we trying to save a few cents on gasoline by making ethanol when it’s driving the cost of food higher?
  • How are you going to improve America’s reputation abroad, now that most countries see us as imperialists?
  • Why is George Bush such an idiot and are you going to be that big of an idiot if you win?
  • What would you do to make opening and running a small business more viable?
  • Do you realize that without illegal immigrants you would not be able to eat your meal?
  • What can I bring you for dessert? They came to eat, not to debate.

The survey says...

If the election were held today, which of the major party presidential candidates would you vote for? 

Hillary Clinton     24%
Rudy Giuliani      22%
Barack Obama    10%
Fred Thompson   10%
John Edwards        8%
John McCain         5%
Mitt Romney         4%
Other                   5%
Don’t know          12%

Which candidate do you feel would be the best for the economy and business?
Hillary Clinton      24%
Rudy Giuliani       21%
Fred Thompson    11%
Mitt Romney          8%
John Edwards         6%
John McCain          6%
Barack Obama       6%
Other                    4%
Don’t know           14%

Which candidate would be the worst for the economy and business?
Hillary Clinton     34%
Barack Obama    13%
Rudy Giuliani      10%
John Edwards       9%
Fred Thompson    6%
Mitt Romney        5%
John McCain        2%
Other                  1%
Don’t know        20%

With which party do you share more beliefs?
Republican    45%
Democratic    37%
Neither         18%

Which is more important to you when deciding who to vote for: Foreign or domestic policy?
Domestic policy    74%
Foreign policy      26%

Do you approve of George W. Bush’s performance?
Yes    32%
No      68%

Do you approve of his handling of the economy?
Yes    40%
No      60%

Do you think the next president will be a Democrat?
Yes    68%

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