On Super Tuesday, I left work early (a little after 6 p.m.) and headed down to 121 Fulton St. a new bar and restaurant to celebrate what many were hoping to be Romney's "knock-out punch" with the "Young Professionals 4 Romney" (YP4R) and "NY Young Republicans Club" (NYYRC). The event was hosted by YP4R and the guest speaker was Dan Loeb, a former Obama backer, and founder of the hedgefund Third Point, LLC.
All around the room, TV's displayed CNN talking heads attempting to break down Ohio, district by distict, always fiddling with their unweildy touchscreens. Some TV's showed the NHL Devils/Rangers game, which many found to be more interesting, but around 7:30 p.m., all eyes turned to the center, where the main attraction of the night, Dan Loeb, took the microphone to address the crowd.
Loeb's remarks were casual, unprepared, and often rambled into asides, but his views did sum up the mindset of the New York GOP. He was socially liberal, being a major contributor to Obama in the 2008 campaign. However, after watching Obama mishandle the recovery and create a harsh atmosphere for business, he had seen enough and threw himself into Romney's camp as passionately as any moderate Republican I've seen.
He lamented, to the general agreement of the crowd, of how social issues had come to dominate the primary season. He rightly described the frustration we all felt when the media and the Democrats framed the choice between Obama and the GOP as one about gay marriage and abortion, rather than about the national debt and our rampant spending. With few exceptions, all the Republicans present at the event supported contraception rights and gay rights, even abortion rights were hardly a hot button issue within the crowd. The associations with the Christian Right, whom Loeb openly disparaged in his talk, seemed to be a bitter reality we had all long resigned ourselves to living with.
For us it was issues of fairness, both business and individual, that were front and center. Punitively taxing the rich to pay for entitlement programs we should not even have, forcing religious groups to violate their beliefs (which, contrary to what Libs think, has nothing to do with the merits of contraception), giving preference to some groups of people over others for the sake of "equality" — all were brought up as points of true contention. At one point, unable to help myself, I muttered to my friend, "Some people are more equal than others," a little too loudly, drawing looks from the people nearby.
But the punchline of the night hit the hardest. Dan Loeb told the story of his founding of Third Point, LLC. He had managed to amass, through various means, approximately $2 million, with which he launched his hedgefund, risking everything he owned on the venture. Third Point is now an $8.8 billion fund. After his talk, he fielded questions, most of which were unremarkable, except for the last one: The young professional meekly asked, "If I had $2 million today, could I launch a sucessful hedgefund in this country now?" It was a question with startling implications, an unorthodox, but interesting measure of how healthy the economic climate in this country was compared to only 10 years ago. After taking several, long moments to consider, Loeb had an answer, "No."
I left the event with a few people I had met there, for more drinks. We continued to talk about all the issues — none of us could believe Santorum was winning Tennessee, or that Romney was struggling in Ohio. We also couldn't believe the Knicks blew it again. An observer would have thought we were Romans sitting on the battlements, watching the Vandals approach and just trying to get as drunk as possible before they arrived.
However, there seemed to be a steely determination among everyone there. There was a firm belief that once the primaries were over, Romney could get out there and seal the deal. There was also the optimism that all wasn't lost. Jeb Bush, the hands down favorite Republican of every person I met that night, can still run in 2016.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore