The Washington Post reports: President Obama and his team have decided to turn public anger at Wall Street into a central tenet of their reelection strategy.
The move comes as the Occupy Wall Street protests gain momentum across the country and as polls show deep public distrust of the nation’s major financial institutions.
And it sets up what strategists see as a potent line of attack against Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, a former investment executive whom Obama aides plan to portray as a wealthy Wall Street sympathizer.
Many Democrats consider Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, the greatest threat to Obama when it comes to wooing centrist independents next year, and Romney this week has begun to present himself as a champion of middle-income Americans.
Obama aides point to recent surveys that show anger at Wall Street spanning ideologies, including a new Washington Post-ABC News poll in which 68 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans say they have unfavorable impressions of the big financial institutions.
But the strategy of channeling anti-Wall Street anger carries risks. Many of Obama’s senior advisers have ties to the financial industry — a point that makes Occupy protesters wary of the president and his party.
In recent days, Obama has ramped up his rhetoric. He took the unusual step of targeting an individual company when he attacked Bank of America for its new $5 monthly debit-card fee, calling it “exactly the sort of stuff that folks are frustrated by.” And his campaign and the White House have distributed messages blasting GOP candidates and lawmakers for wanting to repeal Wall Street regulations pushed by Obama and opposing the confirmation of a leader for the consumer protection bureau created as part of the overhaul.
“We intend to make it one of the central elements of the campaign next year,” Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said in an interview. “One of the main elements of the contrast will be that the president passed Wall Street reform and our opponent and the other party want to repeal it.”
“I’m pretty confident 12 months from now, as people make the decision about who to go vote for, the gut check is going to be about, ‘Who would make decisions more about helping my life than Wall Street?’ ” Plouffe added.
Romney, no doubt anticipating the White House’s new attack line, sought to show solidarity with the demonstrators during this week’s GOP candidates debate.
“The reason you’re seeing protests . . . is middle-income Americans are having a hard time making ends meet,” he said.
GOP leaders say the Wall Street law is government overreach, and Romney’s economic plan calls for replacing it with a “streamlined regulatory framework.”
Obama has tried this line of attack before, railing in 2009 against “fat-cat bankers” who he accused of taking excessive bonuses in the wake of the financial meltdown. But after complaints from Democrats on Wall Street and business leaders, the president has spent much of the past year courting companies — even hiring a new chief of staff, William Daley, from the banking industry.
And many on the left have attacked Obama and his administration for its ties to Wall Street, arguing that the financial regulatory overhaul fell far short of an industry makeover that many critics believed necessary.
Much of his top economic team has roots in the financial services industry, and in recent months Daley and top campaign aides have devoted much of their time improving the relationship with big-dollar donors on Wall Street.