A key conclusion from "Confidence Men," Ron Suskind's effort to pull back the curtain on the Obama White House, is that when President Obama had the chance to drop the hammer on Wall Street early in his term but didn't.
That even surprised some of the nation's top banking executives, Suskind writes. They had feared the president would exact a high price from them as the tribune for the populist outrage that arose when Wall Street executives blithely paid out bonuses after receiving taxpayer bail-outs. But that didn't happen.
Just because Wall Street officials didn't get skewered by Obama as much as they feared they might, however, apparently doesn't mean they feel warm and fuzzy about him. After all, he did sign the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. And he has occasionally publicly criticized them. And then there's his recent call for higher taxes on "millionaires and billionaires."
So, not surprisingly, Obama isn't collecting the kind of money from Wall Street that he did in 2008, according to a Los Angeles Times piece by Nathaniel Popper.
The president's campaign struggled this week to sell out a fundraising dinner Friday at Manhattan's gilded Four Seasons restaurant despite its being hosted by America's No. 1 capitalist, Warren Buffett, according to people close to the campaign who were not authorized to speak publicly. The dinner for 100 was also a relative bargain at $10,000 a plate; recent fundraisers in Hollywood and New York have gone for $35,800 a pop.
The episode highlights a worrying trend for the Obama campaign. Wall Street, a key contributor to Obama in 2008, seems to be switching allegiances.
"His record has been one of reform and that has been an uncomfortable process for some of the major sources of political cash," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political fundraising.
Or as one big-ticket Wall Street fundraiser for Obama put it: "It's more difficult this time around."
On the other hand, the story reports that Mitt Romney, who once headed a private-equity firm, seems not to be having Obama's problem.
Wall Street appears to be lining up behind Republican Mitt Romney, who became Massachusetts governor after founding private-equity firm Bain Capital. He held a sold-out breakfast fundraiser at the exclusive Essex House hotel Tuesday. That was preceded by a breakfast with one of the biggest names on Wall Street, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon.
While this suggests that Obama's campaign may face some serious headwinds in achieving the $1 billion war chest some observers have said it could raise this cycle.
But given how many American voters feel about Wall Street, it might actually help Obama in his re-election bid to be able to label Romney Wall Street's candidate and to offer as proof Romney's larger donation totals from high finance compared with Obama's.