Retired generals and admirals overwhelmingly support Romney

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
Font Size:

Gov. Mitt Romney seemingly has a greater than 50-to-1 advantage in the number of retired admirals and generals who have publicly endorsed his campaign, compared to the number that have endorsed President Barack Obama’s effort.

In mid-October, Romney’s campaign released the names of retired admirals and generals that have endorsed the former Massachusetts governor and agreed to be a part of his Military Advisory Council. The total number now stands at 387, according to a list provided by the Romney campaign.

In contrast, The Daily Caller could find the names of only seven retired admirals or generals who have gone on the record to endorse President Obama’s re-election campaign, including retired Gens. Colin Powell and Wesley Clark.

National Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt did not return any of the four emails TheDC sent him asking if there were more generals and admirals who have endorsed Obama — or, if not, how the Obama campaign explains the wide disparity of support from top retired military officers between the two campaigns.

According to Gary Schmitt, resident scholar and co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, retired officers are likely driven to support Romney by what they see as President Obama’s indifference to victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his willingness to make large cuts to the defense budget.

“For many, they see the president as not really caring about whether we won or lost in Iraq and win or lose in Afghanistan, just as long as we got out or get out,” Schmitt told TheDC in an email. (RELATED VIDEO: Krauthammer says Obama would make a great general … in Napoleon’s army)

“That’s a bottom line the military doesn’t accept since they know the sacrifices the men and women and families of the military have made and are unwilling to just write off. Moreover, they see a president willing to pay for his liberal domestic agenda with cuts in the military. Even before the possibility of sequester, in their bones they know that the $800 in billion in stimulus monies for companies like Solyndra were essentially paid for by $800 billion in cuts and planned defense spending.”

An article on the far-left website Truth-out.org offers two alternative explanations for Romney’s overwhelming support from retired generals and admirals, both of which call into question the character of the endorsers.

“I cannot read the minds of these top officers but, based on years of revolving door practices and other types of abuses, maybe many of these officers were motivated by the fact that they had lucrative post-retirement jobs with defense contractors who promise to become even more flush with money if a budget of this size passes. The lure of money for the revolving door might have clouded their judgment,” the article reads.

The author also suggests that the retired officers may harbor resentment against President Obama because he “was one of only a few president sin [sic] history who refused to get rolled by the generals and asserted civilian control after years of President George W. Bush going along with most of what his generals told him to do.”

But it’s not just retired military officers that seem to favor Romney. A poll of active duty military conducted by the Military Times in early October found that respondents favored Romney over Obama overwhelmingly, 66 percent to 26 percent.

An October report by the Center for a New American Security explained that the modern history of top retired officers endorsing presidential candidates began in the Republican primary in 1988, when George H.W. Bush received the endorsement of retired Commandant of the Marine Corps P.X. Kelley. Since then, presidential candidates have sought to bolster their campaigns and national security credentials by soliciting such endorsements.

In recent years some in the military have spoken out against retired military officers publicly endorsing candidates for fear “such endorsements may damage perceptions of the military as a nonpartisan institution,” the report notes.

In June, for instance, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey criticized the practice, saying: “In my judgment, we must continue to be thoughtful about how our actions and opinions reflect on the profession beyond active service. Former and retired service members, especially generals and admirals, are connected to military service for life. When the title or uniform is used for partisan purposes, it can erode the trust relationship.”

Follow Jamie on Twitter

Jamie Weinstein