The vast majority of donations from members of the financial industry have so far flowed to Mitt Romney, according to an analysis by POLITICO.
Romney and the Super PAC supporting him have pulled in a combined $37.1 million, easily eclipsing the $4.8 million Wall Street has bestowed upon Obama. Many of the financial workers supporting Romney backed Obama in 2008, when individuals and political action committees associated with the securities and investment industry sent the Obama campaign an unprecedented $15.8 million.
POLITICO found that some of Obama's top financial industry backers from 2008 had given to Romney during that election cycle before he failed to secure the Republican presidential nomination, suggesting that part of the switch is simply tactical. Forty-nine donors who had given more than $100,000 to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future Super PAC had supported Democrats in the past.
But Obama's support for a financial reform bill that's deplored by the industry, as well as his increasingly vocal calls for the affluent to pay a higher share of taxes, have pushed many on Wall Street to flip allegiances. Obama has said the Dodd-Frank bill is a necessary safeguard against another economic meltdown, but the Republican party has joined the financial industry in saying the bill limits profits with cumbersome regulations.
The contrast between the two candidates was crystallized in their dueling responses to revelations in May that a trading loss had cost the investment bank JPMorgan Chase nearly $2 billion. Romney's campaign downplayed the loss as a casualty of the risk naturally underpinning the free market, while Obama called the event the reason we passed Wall Street reform.
Since these banks are insured, backed up by taxpayers, Obama said, we don't want you taking risks where eventually we might end up having to bail you out again, because we've done that, been there, didn't like it.
The Obama campaign has worked to portray Romney as an affluent, out-of-touch candidate whose policies would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans. In stump speeches, Obama stressed a need to restore economic fairness, and he charges that Romney is embracing a discredited theory of trickle-down economics that has hurt the middle class.
Romney's emergence as the preferred candidate of Wall Street would seem to bolster that narrative, but it is unlikely that Obama will stress the donation numbers. The Obama campaign's attacks on Bain Capital, the investment firm Romney headed, serve as a cautionary tale: While Obama cast the company as an example of exploitative capitalism, prominent Democrats including Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former President Bill Clinton went off message to defend Bain.
More importantly, Obama still needs Wall Street's money. He has continued to try and woo potential donors, and with November still months away, that $4.8 million total is certain to grow. So don't expect a barrage of campaign ads highlighting Romney's Wall Street fundraising edge.
I think it will be left alone, said Peter Fenn, a Democratic consultant and founder of Fenn Communications Group. Romney has made a lot more from Wall Street folks, but it's not as though Obama doesn't have supporters there.
You've got more of a group of Democrats in that Wall Street environment than you think, Fenn added. A lot of them might not hang with him because they're mad at his policies and rhetoric, but a lot of them will.