Blackstone CEO: GOP field way stronger than 2012's 'Seven Dwarfs'

Blackstone CEO: I'd support several GOP candidates
Blackstone CEO: I'd support several GOP candidates

Stephen Schwarzman loves the political resumes he's sifting through.

The billionaire co-founder of the Blackstone Group (BX) is one of Wall Street's most influential Republicans -- and he's got no shortage of candidates vying for his critical support.

"These candidates each in their own way appear to be stronger than the group that ran last time, which I guess was affectionately called the Seven Dwarfs," Schwarzman told CNNMoney's Cristina Alesci at the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles.

Schwarzman was referring to the 2012 GOP primary race when Mitt Romney squared off against an entertaining group of contenders that included Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Michele Bachman, Rick Perry and... (oops).

"This group may not be as funny, but they are each in their own way more substantive," Schwarzman said.

More than a dozen Republicans are believed to be actively considering a run for the White House. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have already entered the race. Others like Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina may officially jump in soon.

"There are so many of them that you can be happy and sad at the same time," Schwarzman said.

Related: Blackstone CEO: Being nice is more important than an MBA

Will they beat Hillary? But the private-equity billionaire stopped short of predicting a Republican victory in 2016.

When asked if he's confident that one of the GOP contenders will defeat Clinton, Schwarzman joked: "I'm confident one will be nominated." (Schwarzman had nice things to say about Clinton, calling her a "nice person" and "very smart.")

Schwarzman, who made a whopping $690 million in 2014, declined to throw his weight behind any single candidate at this point.

However, he stressed he's a "center-right person" and said he could ultimately support several people.

The only GOP presidential contender Schwarzman directly contributed money to in 2014 was Rubio, according to OpenSecrets.org, a group that tracks campaign finance donations.

In 2012 Schwarzman supported Mitt Romney and hosted a fundraiser for the candidate at his Park Avenue Manhattan apartment.

The Blackstone CEO emphasized the need to nominate a Republican who will ultimately appeal to independent voters, not just the passionate right wing of the GOP.

"If they're not acceptable to the center, they can't win. If they're not enough acceptable to the right, they can't be nominated," he said.

Related: Breaking down Rand Paul's economic policy

Big challenges need to be tackled: Like other leaders at the Milken Global Conference, Schwarzman believes the election will be crucial to getting the American -- and ultimately the global -- economy back on the right path.

"We're not addressing major problems, whether they're immigration, taxes" or other challenges, he said. "It weakens our ability to be leaders, which then shakes confidence in other countries."

Personal Finance

         

CNNMoney Sponsors