Though Americans far and away identify economic problems as the biggest issue facing the nation, according to Gallup, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has been gaining support by talking about the need to restrict the military industrial complex and end what he terms "war profiteering" -- most recently in his victory speech after the New Hampshire primary.
By contrast, former governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), currently leading the pack of GOP candidates, called for a strong America and a strong relationship with Israel -- rhetoric that has most often accompanied robust military spending. Meanwhile, back in Washington, President Obama thought last year that the prospect of automatic defense spending cuts would be enough to pressure the supercommittee into a deal on the debt: it wasn't, and now he may be stuck with them.
Given all of that, and Romney's pro-business platform, you would think he'd be the favored son of the defense industry, even in the early stages of the 2012 race. You'd be wrong.
President Obama is leading the pack in donations from the defense industry: according to the Center for Responsive Politics, he'd taken in almost $112,000 from defense industry donors through December 2011, despite not accepting any donations from super PACs or lobbyists. (Complete fourth quarter numbers were only released yesterday, so break-downs aren't yet available by industry.)
By comparison, Romney only got $56,000 for his campaign from defense-industry donors. Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) -- who, notably, was far behind in fundraising when the figures were compiled -- took in a paltry $4,900 from defense industry employees despite previously representing a state with a sizable defense industry (Pennsylvania) and currently residing in a state with an even larger defense industry (Virginia).
And, interestingly, Paul took in just under $50,000 from defense industry donors, a figure which does not include his haul from members of the Armed Forces and employees of the Department of Defense, which was $95,567. Like Obama, Paul took no money from PACs before December 5, 2011.
But if Obama's support from the defense industry is surprising to some, they need only hearken back to the 2008 elections, when the junior Senator from Illinois received 34 percent more donations from the defense industry than the war-hero senior Senator from Arizona. At the time, Obama edged out Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in donations from active-duty troops, though Paul made a substantial showing then as well. But in 2012, Paul's already received more donations from members of the military and DOD than Obama has: nearly $96,000 to Obama's almost $76,000, as of third quarter 2011.
Individual donors are limited to $2,500 in donations per candidate per election by the Federal Election Committee.
[Counterclockwise from the top left, images via the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate Airman Sheldon Rowley, the White House, Gage Skidmore and Gage Skidmore on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]