The CEO Poll: And the winner is …

Canadian business leaders divided over best U.S. president.

UpfrontCanadian business leaders have no consensus about which American presidential candidate would be best for Canada-U.S. relations, or for revitalizing the U.S. economy. The findings were revealed in a web poll of 141 Canadian CEOs conducted by COMPAS Inc.

When the respondents were asked to grade the anticipated performance of the would-be presidents on a 100-point scale, Republican John McCain barely came out on top with a score of 66. Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton followed close behind with 65 and 63, respectively, while Republicans Mitt Romney (who dropped out of the race on Feb. 7) and Mike Huckabee were the laggards. In fact, Huckabee was the only one to receive a failing grade (44) from the CEOs.

The respondents reached a majority on only one point: that McCain is the most competent to deal with international military-security issues. Clinton garnered the most support when it came to Canada-U.S. relations, with 30% of the respondents choosing the New York senator. “The Democrats have been favourably disposed to us northerners in the past,” wrote one respondent. “But it is not clear how any of these candidates will ultimately relate to Canada. Lots of talking around the edges, but too little hardball on policy and vision.” McCain and Obama were tied at 23%.

The CEOs also ranked Clinton as the most capable to deal with the sagging U.S. economy. But with the support of only 28% of the respondents, Clinton was not too far ahead of McCain and Obama, tied at 25%. Romney earned the support of just 12% of the respondents, despite his role in revamping the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and his experience in the private equity world.Of course, who becomes president isn’t the only factor in effecting change. “All the posturing and words and phrases coming forth are just that,” one CEO wrote. “How the White House will perform will depend on the control of the House and Senate.” Another business leader noted that being the U.S. leader isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: “I feel sorry for the next president because of the long list of things that need to be fixed and the difficulties that the next president will face in making any progress.”