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Obama, Wall Street And The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

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Last Thursday evening, President Obama held a fundraiser at Daniel as part of his reelection campaign. There was Vodka Beet-Cured Hamachi with Horseradish Cream. There was Zucchini Pomponette with Fontina and Tomato Confit. There was Vanilla-Raspberry Gelée. But there was no Lloyd Blankfein and there was no Jamie Dimon, and there was no Dick Parsons. Some people interpreted the lack of JD and LB and other banking chiefs as indication that Wall Street is done with Barack Obama. Sure, he still has some big names backing him (like Daniel attendees Marc Lasry, Robert Wolf and Mark Gallogly) but the absence of Lloyd and Jamie, who, ironically, Obama was once so close with that his pet name for was "zucchini pompette," seemed to suggest a broader trend and evidence that the rumors Wall Street had "abandoned" Mr. President were true. And while some big names, like Dan Loeb and Steve Cohen, who previously backed Obama in '08 have made no secret about dropping him (and over the weekend likely inspired others to join them), others apparently continue to support BO. They just don't want anyone to know about it.

Behind the scenes, it seems that many bankers are not running away from the president as quickly as some might suspect. While many of the biggest name financiers feel that they can’t publicly support Mr. Obama through campaign contributions the way they did in 2008 — “it would be bad for business,” one brand-name chief executive of a major bank acknowledged — some still plan to vote for him.

Which normally would've stung but this time around is all well and good with the President and his team, 'cause it goes the same way. They don't want anyone to know about Obama's relationship with Lloyd, Jamie, et al either. They don't even want to risk Obama being tagged in a picture with LB, for fear of the message it might send.

The president’s re-election campaign has not been actively courting Wall Street’s biggest C.E.O.’s to appear at such fund-raisers out of fear that their support could offend his most liberal backers, two people involved in planning his fund-raiser at Daniel said. “A picture of Lloyd and Obama together probably isn’t helpful,” one of these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting his role in the campaign. (It is unknown whom Mr. Blankfein plans to vote for.)

Even more wild? People are now saying Obama actually hasn't treated them so badly, and maybe they were just embellishing stories for the benefit of their girlfriends who were in the mood to hate on men.

While Wall Street executives still complain about the president’s name-calling and pressure for a regulatory overhaul, many say privately that his bark has been worse than his bite. “Obama hasn’t been too bad to banks. He could have been worse,” said a top executive at one of the nation’s largest banks, a big supporter in the past who decided against attending the dinner because he did not want his colleagues and clients to see him supporting the president. “His rhetoric was obnoxious,” he added, referring to the “fat cat” comments, “but since the midterms, he’s turned it off.”

But in case you were worried about certain someones jumping back in a bit too quickly and risking having the rug pulled out from under them once again, don't be. They're being smart this time around and keeping their options open.

To the extent that Wall Street does donate, big name donors are expected to spread it out in small amounts, effectively hedging their bets like any good investor.

It's one thing to gamble with money- it's quite another to gamble with your heart.

On Obama, Wall Street Shows A Reluctance To Commit [Dealbook]