The U.S. economy seems to be on the mend and, barring unforeseen developments, Barack Obama appears to be the favorite to win the 2012 presidential election.
Ron Insana, a senior analyst for CNBC, shared those views earlier this month at the 2011 annual meeting of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU), Reston, Va.
“We do face some political risks, some of which are economic,” Insana said. “We have more tailwinds than we have headwinds. Despite the glitch we saw in first quarter GDP, the U.S. economy is in relatively good shape.”
“Barring a double-dip recession or a real problem in geopolitical terms, the president has the upper hand. Effectively, the campaign is his to lose. The Republicans have yet to field a candidate who I think would pose a serious challenge.”
Insana said Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke deserves a good measure of credit for bringing the United States back from the brink during the 2008 financial crisis. He argued that Bernanke is a student of the Great Depression who implemented “extraordinarily enlightened policies” and should be applauded for his “heroic efforts.”
Insana said his own theme for 2011 and beyond is that “there is no place like home,” because the U.S. economy now looks to be better positioned for growth than developed and emerging market economies. He believes China, India, Brazil, Australia and Europe now all are facing issues that could crimp their economies.
“We are, in absolute and relative terms, the best place around as far as [economic] opportunity goes,” Insana said. “Detroit [auto makers] are making a comeback and the manufacturing sector has been experiencing a renaissance.”
Also during the AALU appearance, Insana expressed not-so-positive thoughts about Donald Trump, whom he considered “obnoxious.”
Insana, repeatedly interviewed Trump while at CNBC and said that Trump–who for a time was a possible contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination–does not take well to aggressive questioning from reporters.
“If you’re kind to him he is nice to you,” Insana said. “If you ask him a tough question, he becomes an extremely obnoxious and spiteful individual. I have zero respect for the man.”
Insana also questioned Trump’s reputation in the real estate community. “If you talk to a Sam Zell or a Mort Zuckerman, who are genuine real estate magnates, they won’t even participate in a conversation with the guy,” he said.
Insana added that Trump’s much-publicized questioning of President Obama’s birth certificate unnecessarily reignited the so-called birther debate, which he described as “crazy and unhinged.”
On May 16, Trump officially said he would not seek the Republican nomination, insisting that while he was confident he would win the Presidential race, he remained committed to the private sector. Before that, however, he did note that he found the intensity of criticism directed at his political efforts to be unexpected.
Insana would have welcomed a Trump presidential bid because a Trump candidacy would force Trump to reveal his true net worth. Colleagues on Wall Street peg Trump’s net worth at about $200 million, substantially less than the “billions of dollars” that, according to Insana, Trump says he’s worth.
“One thing I’ve found being in close proximity to extraordinarily wealthy people over the course of my career is that, the richer they are the less they talk about it,” Insana said. “I would take that as a reliable indicator because Trump keeps talking about how rich he is. I previously worked for [hedge fund manager and SAC Capital Advisors founder] Steve Cohen, who is worth $7.5 billion. He never once mentioned to me his net worth.”