A month before the 2008 presidential election, retired Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. wrote a column for the Observer in which he explained why an America in economic peril needed Barack Obama's leadership.
Then, last year, McColl -- still on any A-list of North Carolina's most influential leaders -- agreed to serve as an honorary co-chair on a host committee that's raising $37 million for the Democratic National Convention.
So why is McColl now listed as one of the co-chairs of a Charlotte fundraiser next week for Mitt Romney, Obama's likely Republican opponent?
He'll join fellow co-hosts C.D. Spangler and Johnny Harris -- two other well-heeled Charlotteans with clout -- at the April 18 event at Myers Park Country Club.
"Really, I'm supporting Mitt Romney in the Republican primary," McColl told the Observer this week, before he learned that Rick Santorum had dropped out of the GOP race, paving the way for Romney's eventual nomination. "I like Mitt Romney. I'm sure I will support him financially."
As a registered Democrat, though, McColl can't vote in North Carolina's May 8 GOP primary.
But he can certainly vote for Romney over Obama in November. Will he?
"I haven't made up my mind," he said. "I think Mitt Romney as an alternative is good for the country. I think we should have a choice."
So, what will McColl's choice be?
"I'm not going to say," he said. "Voting is a private matter."
But, four years ago, he publicly endorsed Obama, saying his "sharp intellect, stiff spine and steady hand" made him best equipped to deal with an economy in disarray.
"I may (endorse) again," he said. "But today, I'm not prepared to do that."
Despite McColl's answers, one thing seemed clear from the interview: Obama, a sometime critic of the country's banks and a president still struggling with the economy, will not automatically get his vote this time.
BofA 'unduly attacked'
McColl refused several times to spell out his current views on the president.
But he did say that he has not appreciated the denunciations of Bank of America in recent years -- a chorus of criticism Obama has joined.
Last October, the president slammed the bank McColl built for its decision, since rescinded, to charge customers a $5 monthly fee for use of their debit cards.
"You don't have some inherent right just to, you know, get a certain amount of profit, if your customers are being mistreated," Obama told ABC News. "This is exactly the sort of stuff that folks are frustrated by."
But it's those kinds of comments that appear to frustrate McColl, who turned Bank of America into an international powerhouse before retiring in 2001.
"Clearly, I have felt like Bank of America has been unduly attacked by the press and the government. I'm not happy about that," McColl said, then added: "You heard the word press, didn't you?"
McColl also said going after banks is short-sighted.
"Whether you like banks or not, they are a mirror of our economy. If banks are doing poorly, then the economy is doing poorly. You should hope that banks are doing well; then the economy is doing well," he said. "I see no reason to attack the banks. That's a mistake. We need more credit, not less credit. And I think we need more risk-taking. The country is not going to get going without it."
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