Obama, Christie Headline CEO Conference in D.C.

Top Democrats, Republicans vie for support from business community.

President Barack Obama walks with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after arriving at Joint Base McGuire-Dix in New Jersey on May 28, 2013.
By SHARE

Politics are in play as Washington prepares for the nation's top CEO's to descend upon it for the 2013 CEO Council annual meeting Monday and Tuesday, hosted by the Wall Street Journal.

Top politicians, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, and President Barack Obama will be mixing and mingling with the likes of J.C. Penney top executive Myron Ullman and Alcoa's Klaus Kleinfeld, as each side tries to rejuvenate their political alliances going forward.

[READ: GOP Savior? Not So Fast, Say Dems of Chris Christie]

While traditionally Republicans have held the affections of top businessmen – and their campaign donations – new currents are at work.

Speaking in the aftermath of October's federal government shutdown, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who will not be present at the two-day conference, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue revealed the chamber would offer support to some Democrats during the 2014 election cycle.

"We will support, to some peoples' discomfort, numbers of Democrats in both houses," he said. "The bottom line is this is all about the economy, so for us it's all about the American business community and all about the country."

But Democrats have a tough row to hoe with the business world as well, thanks to the chilly reputation Obama has built during his time as president. His support for financial regulation reform and the massive health care overhaul currently plaguing business owners helped lead to big business spending heavily in a failed attempt to elect Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

According to the Center of Responsive Politics, the financial world alone spent more than $50 million against Obama during the election.

Christie, fresh off his landslide win in blue New Jersey, hopes to impress the top executive class during a speech on political leadership. Part of his best chance at winning the GOP nomination against more rigid conservatives will be to win over elites and tastemakers, as well as earn their financial support early.

Upset by the financial tumult caused by a powerful group of rigid ideologues in the House GOP over issues of taxing and spending, as well as the fight over health care that caused the 16-day government shutdown, business rallied behind a more moderate candidate in an Alabama congressional Republican primary. That's a pattern Christie would like to see continue into 2016, when he faces the likes of Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in a potential primary match-up.

[WALSH: Christie Plays It Cool]

But the silver lining for Democrats might just be their ability to win nationally.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, admitted the GOP had a bit of explaining to do following 2012.

"We held the second biggest [House] majority since World War II in 2012, a point I often have to make to our donor community who still are wondering if Mitt Romney actually won because they invested so heavily, he must have," he said Friday. "And then we go and have the discussion about the Senate and the things that happened there and by the time we get to [the House] they have to go to the chiropractor because their neck snaps around. It's like, 'what'?"

The two-day conference features panels on policy areas such as energy, health care and education.

More News: