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Wall Street turning cold shoulder to Obama

David Gura Apr 24, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Today New York and four other states will hold their presidential primaries, and it’s expected that President Obama will get the delegates he needs to officially wrap up the Democratic nomination and that Mitt Romney will come closer to wrapping up the Republican nomination. Also expected: a lot of people who work on Wall Street and supported President Obama back in 2008 will be switching to Team Romney this time around.

As part of our coverage of The Real Economy: What matters most in this election, Marketplace’s David Gura has our story from New York.

David Gura: As a candidate, Barack Obama wasn’t just popular on Main Street. He also appealed to Wall Street.

Anthony Corrado: They were concerned about change and the state of the economy, just as most of America was.

Anthony Corrado teaches government at Colby College. He says many finance types didn’t like how big the federal deficit got during the Bush administration. More broadly, Obama also struck them as a unifying political figure. So, as fund manager Tony Scaramucci puts it:

Tony Scaramucci: Members of the financial community had a love affair with Barack Obama.

First they gushed; then, they gave — millions and millions of dollars. Even though Scaramucci is a registered Republican, he took a chance on Obama. He says he believed an Obama administration would get the U.S. economy humming again.

Scaramucci: And it would be a moderate, accommodating, compromising government.

But Scaramucci says that hasn’t happened, and that love affair didn’t last very long. Just a few months into his presidency, Obama said this to CBS News’s “60 Minutes”:

Barack Obama: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of, you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street.

That stung — and it alienated a lot of Wall Street donors. Today, Scaramucci remembers another comment Obama made, about the economy.

Scaramucci: He also said, when he was running for president, if he couldn’t fix the thing in three or four years, he’d be a one-termer, so I’m determined to help him get into his retirement.

So now, Scaramucci backs Mitt Romney. He’s already given thousands to Romney’s campaign. Political scientist Anthony Corrado says Scaramucci is not alone. Romney, who made his fortune in private equity, has a lot of friends in finance, and they don’t like the way the Obama has framed things.

Corrado: As essentially an election against Wall Street, against millionaires, against private capital, in favor of stronger support for the middle class and what we might loosely call the 99 percent.

Despite that, Corrado says there are still plenty of bankers and fund managers who would be willing to support Obama again. And he expects Wall Street will be a big fundraising battleground up until the general election.

In New York, I’m David Gura for Marketplace.

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