MEMO: On Wall Street Excess, Republican Elites Versus Republican Voters
TO: Interested Parties
FR: Bill Burton, Priorities USA Action
RE: Sunday Memo: On Wall Street Excess, Republican Elites Versus Republican Voters
Republican elites in DC and Boston have made clear this week that any criticism of Wall Street excesses generally and Mitt Romney’s profits as a corporate buyout specialist specifically is an attempt to “put free enterprise on trial,” “an attack on capitalism,” and most subtly: “communism.”
But the views of actual Republican voters are very different from the Republican establishment. By large majorities, Republican voters believe Wall Street is “greedy,” “overpaid,” and “dishonest.” They also overwhelmingly reject the establishment Republican dogma that all of Wall Street’s actions are inherently beneficial to the US economy.
Even to South Carolina Republican primary voters -- hardly members of Occupy Wall Street -- Romney's business record is deeply troubling. In Priorities USA Action poling completed Monday, 53% of South Carolina Republican primary voters (including one-third of his own supporters) expressed major doubts about Romney when given a description of his work that resulted in massive profits for him even if companies went bankrupt and fired their workers. Wall Street investment firms had a net negative rating with South Carolina Republicans, with 49% unfavorable and just 35% favorable.
And these are Republican voters – the overall electorate is even more willing to question Wall Street excesses and will be even more wary of Romney’s background.
The worship of Wall Street infallibility expressed by conservative elites from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh is completely disconnected from the healthy skepticism of Wall Street excesses held by actual conservative voters watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh.
Republicans in DC and Boston certainly have something to fear: by nominating the personification of Wall Street excess, they risk finally exposing the rift between the elites who control the Republican Party and the voters who are the Republican Party. Already, in Iowa and New Hampshire, the cracks are beginning to show. The only income group Romney won in Iowa was those earning over $100,000 a year. In his effective home state of New Hampshire, the only income group Romney won a majority of was those earning over $200,000 a year and his support declined incrementally with every income group below.
If these problems exist for Romney among Republican primary voters, they will only grow as he is introduced to a general electorate that rightly has deep concerns about the Wall Street deals that benefited executives like Mitt Romney but left middle class families devastated.
Romney: Criticism of Bain Work Represents “Bitter Politics of Envy” and Attempt to “Put Free Enterprise on Trial.” In his New Hampshire victory speech, Romney said attacks on him profiting from layoffs represented “the bitter politics of envy.” He said criticism by leading Republican presidential candidates and Democrats of his business record was an attempt to “put free enterprise on trial.” [Washington Post’s Plum Line, 1/11/12; The Hill, 1/11/12]
Republican Elites Defended Romney’s Business Practices, Accused Critics of Opposition to Capitalism. The Club for Growth described criticism of Romney’s corporate buyout work as, “Attacking Governor Romney for participating in free-market capitalism” and “disgusting.” Romney surrogate and Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin described a Gingrich supporter’s criticism of Bain as “an attack on capitalism.” Top Romney surrogate said criticism of Romney’s work was “anti-free enterprise” and included an implied threat that those financing anti-Romney ads might lose access to loans from Wall Street. [Right Turn Blog, 1/9/12; Club for Growth, 1/9/12; Fox News, 1/10/12]
Giuliani and McCain Compared Criticism of Romney’s Business Record to Communism. Rudy Giuliani said, “The stuff you’re [Gingrich] saying is one of the reasons we’re in this trouble now. This whole ignorant populist view of the economy that was proven to be incorrect with the Soviet Union with Chinese communism.” McCain said, “Keep everybody in business, keep every industry no matter how bad it is. And that’s what communism is, and unfortunately it doesn’t work. And, look, nobody feels worse than someone who is involved in it when you have to lay people off. But the fact is that there are so many times when you have to improve, you have to cut back, you have to do things.” [ABC News, 1/12/12; Fox News via Mediaite, 1/12/12]
72% of Republicans and 76% of Conservatives Describe Wall Street as “Greedy.” 72% of Republicans in a CNN poll described “Wall Street bankers and brokers” as “greedy.” 76% of conservatives also described Wall Street as “greedy.” [CNN Poll, 10/24/11]
Over 2/3 of Republicans and Conservatives Believe Wall Street is “Overpaid.” According to a CNN Poll, 69% of Republicans and 71% of conservatives believe Wall Street bankers and brokers are overpaid. [CNN Poll, 10/24/11]
Republicans Voters Do Not “Trust Wall Street Bankers and Brokers to Do What is Best for the Economy.” According to a CNN Poll, only 31% of Republicans voters trust Wall Street “a great deal” or “somewhat” to do what is best for the economy. 25% said “a little” and a clear plurality of 43% said “not at all.” [CNN Poll, 10/24/11]
Clear Majority of Republicans and Conservatives Call Wall Street “Dishonest.” In a CNN Poll, 55% of Republicans and 58% of conservatives said “dishonest” accurately describes Wall Street bankers and brokers. [CNN Poll, 10/24/11]
Even 38% of Republicans Believe Their Party Favors the Rich. 38% of Republicans believe their party favors the rich, with 18% believing they favor the middle class, 4% the poor and 38% favoring all equally. [CBS/NYT Poll, 10/25/11]
Priorities USA Action Polling: SC Republicans Respond Negatively to Romney’s Work as Buyout Specialist. 53% of South Carolina likely Republican primary voters expressed “major doubts” about Romney when read a description of his work that resulted in massive profits for himself even when companies went bankrupt and workers were laid off. One-third of Romney’s own supporters expressed major doubts. Furthermore, Wall Street investment firms carry a net negative rating among SC Republican primary voters, with 49% unfavorable and only 35% favorable. [Priorities USA Action Polling, Survey of 511 Likely SC Republican Primary Voters, Conducted: January 6-9, 2012]
79% of Americans Believe “The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor in the United States Has Grown Too Large.” [Time Poll, 10/11/11]
76% of Americans Agreed “The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country.” 76% of Americans agreed (60% Strongly Agreed) with the statement, “The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the rich.” Only 12% disagreed. [NBC News/WSJ Poll, 11/5/11]
77% of Americans In a Pew poll Said Rich Have Too Much Power. 77% of American answered affirmatively to the question, “Do you think there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations in the United States, or don’t you think so?” [Pew, 12/15/11]
In Iowa, Romney Only Won Voters Making Over $100,000 Per Year. In Iowa exit polls, the only income subgroup Romney won was those making over $100,000 a year. [CNN Exit Poll]
In New Hampshire, Romney Won Majority Only Of Voters Making Over $200,000. In New Hampshire exit polls, Romney only won a majority among voters making over $200,000 a year. His support declined corresponding to each drop in income level below $200,000. [CNN Exit Poll]