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4 SIFMA panelists on the election

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At the Securities Industry and Financial Market Association’s (SIFMA) annual meeting in New York on Tuesday, a panel of Washington insiders ruminated over polls, predictions and the possible impact the upcoming election will have on the industry

The panel, moderated by SIFMA’s Ken Bensten, executive vice president, Public Policy and Advocacy, featured Charlie Black of Prime Policy Group and former chief presidential campaign adviser and informal advisory to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign; Karen Finney, political analyst with MSNBC and Mark McKinnon, co-founder of No Labels. 

With last night’s debate still being digested right along with this morning’s breakfast, the audience was keen to hear the panel’s take on who had the stronger showing. 

McKinnon indicated that he felt that Obama looked and acted like the challenger in the third and final debate, which was supposed to focus on foreign policy. Although both candidates were more subdued than in their previous encounter, Obama was more aggressive, steering his answers to show the differences between him and Governor Romney rather than answering strictly on the policy in question. This, McKinnon said was typical of a challenger rather than an incumbent.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Black felt that Romney was still running off the fuel he had attained after the first debate. Momentum from the first debate has been steadily, though not drastically, improving Black said and he felt that it, coupled with a few other factors, would be enough for Romney to pull ahead in the dead heat that most polls have the candidates in.

Black reminded the audience that no sitting president had ever won re-election with lower than a 50 percent job approval rate. The economy, which has been the major issue, was not one of the president’s strong points and, he maintained that the country feels more comfortable with Governor Romney behind the wheel. Black went on to say that Romney was running a “better ground game,” and offered three outcomes to the fast-approaching election:

  • The President will narrowly defeat Romney;
  • Romney will narrowly defeat the President and;
  • The undecided voters will be galvanized and energetically throw their support behind Romney leaving him with a decisive win.

Finney offered a different point of view. She said that it was very difficult to unseat a sitting president because the challenger has to basically convince the country to switch “mid stream” something that is not easy to do. There has been rampant speculation that the African American and Latino vote (both of which played a large role in getting President Obama elected) will not show up at the polls in the same numbers as they did in 2008. Finney, believes they will and feels that speculation otherwise is unfounded.

When the panelists were asked about recent polls and the overall validity of the polling science they all seemed to agree that polls are snapshots in time, and they should be treated as so. Black said, “polling is an inexact science and 19 in 20 will be accurate.” He also raised a question as to how pollsters sample. Finney maintained that some media outlets are “obsessed with polls and polling because it is cheap news. It is a lot easier to conducts a poll and have panelists discuss it than to travel onto location to speak with people.” 

McKinnon meanwhile explained that polls were based on information from the last turnout. 

When topics germane to the industry were finally raised time was running out and the audience had to be cleared before the next speaker took the stage but panelists nonetheless offered their input.

Black maintained that Paul Ryan was a smart pick for vice president as he is an effective campaigner, poised to defend his record on Medicare reform that he had proposed in his budgets. This, Black said was crucially important as Democrats usually pounce on the Medicare issue. 

Finney felt that Democrats had an advantage because the population trusts so-called entitlements in their hands as opposed to those of their G.O.P colleagues.

McKinnon felt that the Republican ticket was able to “neutralize the Medicare issue effectively,” mostly due to Ryan’s prowess in defending it.

Black said that a President Romney would repeal and replace Dodd-Frank utilizing “different reasons to do different things.”

All panelists passionately agreed on one thing, that the election would hinge on the outcome in Ohio.