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Obama & Wall Street: Is the Love Affair Really Over?

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
Fin - Daily Ticker - US

Perception often trumps reality in both politics and on Wall Street. So when you combine the two, it's especially important to separate what's really going on from what everyone says is going on.

Which brings us to President Obama's fund-raising efforts in financial circles: The popular view is the president alienated Wall Street with his "fat cat" rhetoric and support for financial reform legislation. After supporting Obama's candidacy in 2008, several prominent money managers, including Dan Loeb and Anthony Scaramucci, have publicly distanced themselves from the president and are actively supporting GOP candidates; former private equity executive Mitt Romney is particularly appealing to many on Wall Street.

"It is clear [Obama's] supporters will have to work much harder to win over the financial services industry than they did in 2008," The NYT reports. "He has suffered some unusually public defections and criticism by some former Wall Street supporters who view his policies and rhetoric as unfair to the industry."

That may very well be true and many in the industry don't like Obama-care or his calls for higher taxes on the wealthy, either. But the reality is Obama raised a higher-than-expected $2.3 million from Wall Street-types at last week's $38,500 per plate dinner at Daniel, according to The NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin. And as of May 31, the Democratic National Committee had raised $10.5 million for the 2012 campaign vs. $6.2 million for the RNC.

"At end of the day, he won't get back everybody from Wall Street he had in 2008 but he will get back enough so his fund-raising will be quite successful," says Steven Rattner, the former private equity executive who served as special advisor on Obama's auto task force.

Despite Obama's tough talk, Rattner believes the president hasn't been so bad for the industry, and may indeed have been "the only thing standing between the bankers and the pitchforks."

I've expressed a similar view here many times, including earlier this month when I wrote: Obama's populist rhetoric has not been matched by his actions vis-a-vis Wall Street. Rather than using the 2008 election as a mandate for real change, the Obama administration continued and extending the Bush administration's policies of providing bailouts with little or no restrictions, and failed to hold senior executives and bondholders responsible for their actions. (See: Obama Lashes Out at "Fat Cat Bankers," But Talk Is Cheap)

In the accompanying video, Rattner talks with Dan Gross and me about the "optics" of Obama's Wall Street fund-raising efforts. Rattner also answers questions about why he and wife Maureen White, the former head of finance for the DNC, aren't doing any fund raising for Obama this time around.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @atask or email him at altask@yahoo.com