Economists reluctantly pick Romney

Candidates' plans to help small business
Candidates' plans to help small business

Economists think Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would be better for the economy than President Obama. But they're not very enthusiastic about either of them.

Nine of 17 top economists surveyed by CNNMoney picked Romney when asked whose election would help the economy grow more. Only three picked Obama.

But the remaining five made no pick, with several suggesting neither would provide much of a lift to the sagging economy.

"Obama doesn't really understand business and Romney doesn't really understand how to govern. So pick your poison," said Gary Rosenberger of EconoPlay, one of those surveyed who refused to give a pick.

And many of those picking Romney were more critical of, as opposed to excited about, the Republican challenger's plans.

"Romney's policies would likely be less bad for the economy than Obama's," said Bill Watkins, executive director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at Cal Lutheran University.

Related: Who's better for stocks, Obama or Romney?

Several of the economists who thought Romney would be better for the economy pointed out what they thought were flaws in Obama's record. These economists felt there is too much regulatory uncertainty hanging over businesses and that gridlock between the White House and Republicans in Congress also is a drag on hiring and growth.

"Romney might be more likely to get Congress to do something, whereas Obama has shown he can't," said David Wyss, a fellow at Brown University.

Allen Sinai of Decision Economics gave the Republican challenger the most enthusiastic support of those surveyed, saying Romney's calls for "cutting growth of government outlays, lowering tax rates and closing loopholes, less regulatory uncertainty ...smaller government and entitlement reform all must be tackled."

Related: Obama may be a job creator after all

But those who picked Obama are hoping things will be different if the president wins a second term. Obama could be in a better position to enact reforms on entitlement spending and reach a deal on deficit reduction than Romney, according to one economist.

"It's the Nixon-to-China syndrome -- only a Democrat can get away with it," said Bill Cheney, chief economist at Manulife Asset Management.

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