Campaign officials representing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are scrambling to shore up their support on Wall Street, which is growing increasingly alarmed about their preferred candidate’s chances to unseat President Obama in the November presidential election, the FOX Business Network has learned.
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Romney campaign representatives have in recent days reached out to their major donors from the financial industry, and the good news is that most major contributors say they are still committed to Romney. His donors are not ready to jump ship and begin donating to President Obama with less than two months before the election, according to Romney officials and Wall Street executives.
The bad news for Romney is that his Wall Street donor base -- a significant source of funds for any presidential candidate -- is increasingly upset with the Romney campaign; major donors have asked for meetings with the former Massachusetts governor, and are imploring his campaign staff to be more aggressive in attacking President Obama’s record on everything from the economy to his policies in the Middle East.
“All the hedge fund and Wall Street people I have talked to in the last 10 hours are still all in,” said one senior Romney campaign official who asked not to be quoted by name. “I am hearing some defeatist talk, but that is typical considering what’s going on now.”
Lauren Zelt Tate, director of media affairs for the Romney campaign, declined comment.
Meanwhile, some Wall Streeters are pinning their hopes on Republicans picking off key senate seats in this Fall’s election to blunt what they believe is President Obama’s anti-business agenda of higher taxes and more regulation if he wins, as recent polls suggest. One Senate seat they see as vulnerable is that which belonged for former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, where Republican Linda McMahon is running strong against Democrat Chris Murphy in a state that traditionally leans Democratic.
McMahon, the wife of World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon, will be attending a fundraiser tonight in New York City at the apartment of former General Electric (NYSE:GE) chairman Jack Welch, the FOX Business Network has learned. Welch’s replacement at GE, Jeffrey Immelt, is the head of President Obama’s jobs council, but he has told friends that he will likely support Romney in the presidential election.
Neither Welch nor a McMahon campaign official would comment.
Despite its reputation for leaning toward Republican candidates, Wall Street is notorious for siding up to candidates that are likely to win in order to buy influence once they’re in office. In 2008, the big financial firms overwhelmingly supported candidate Obama over his Republican challenger, John McCain. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) was Obama’s second-largest contributor for that election cycle.
President Obama’s low poll numbers, combined with his new policies of increased financial regulation and personal attacks against the industry (he has referred to financial executives as “fat cats”) have prodded the big banks in the opposite direction. Romney, the former CEO of private equity firm Bain Capital, is well known among the banking industry’s top executives and has raised more than twice as much money from Wall Street than has Obama so far in the 2012 contest.
Will that change as the president appears to be pulling ahead in the polls, particularly in the all important battleground states? Unlikely, say people on Wall Street who are supporting Romney, and people in the Romney camp who have been calling their big donors in recent days. Those calls by the campaign were prompted following a burst of negative media coverage over remarks the Republican challenger made suggesting he will write-off the support of 47% of the population because they don’t pay income taxes and thus won’t support his plans to shrink government.
“Where are we going to go?” said one financial executive who supports Romney, and who says he will not be switching sides.
But that doesn’t mean financial executives aren’t taking some action as the Romney campaign sputters. Many are increasingly agitated, demanding meetings with Romney, and calling on his senior aides to be more aggressive in attacking President Obama’s policies.
They say one problem with Romney is that he takes advice from only a few senior aides, and listens to almost no one else, particularly his Wall Street donors.
“I told him at one meeting that he needs to be more forceful and he just gave me a blank look,” said one CEO of a major financial company. “It was as if I was talking to a wall.”