Clinton looks to build support on left while keeping Wall St. friends

Clinton looks to build support on left while keeping Wall St. friends
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE is working to shore up support on the left while not alienating her longtime supporters on Wall Street, as she moves closer to announcing a bid for the White House.

It’s a difficult balancing act for Clinton, who has many ties to the financial world from her time as a senator from New York and is expected to rake in significant cash from Wall Street during the campaign.


The former secretary of State has signaled in distinct ways that she wants to tie her campaign to calls for tackling income inequality and wage growth championed by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMisguided recusal rules lock valuable leaders out of the Pentagon Biden's soft touch with Manchin, Sinema frustrates Democrats Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves MORE (D-Mass.) and the left wing of the Democratic Party. But she wants to accomplish this without coming across as a class warrior or enemy to her old friends. 

In recent weeks, Clinton has been discussing how to thread the needle, according to allies. She’s sought out opinions from those on both sides of the Wall Street debate as part of a listening tour of sorts.

Not coincidentally, she’s indicated where she’s headed in her would-be campaign with a couple of messages on Twitter.

“Attacking financial reform is risky and wrong,” Clinton wrote on the social media network earlier this month. “Better for Congress to focus on jobs and wages for middle class families.”

A few days later, and minutes after President Obama finished delivering his State of the Union address, Clinton weighed in to say it “pointed [the] way to an economy that works for all” adding, “Now we need to step up [and] deliver for the middle class.” She used the hashtags “Fair Shot” and “Fair Share” to accompany her 140-character message.

Clinton’s recent stance is meant to assuage the left, which is itching for a candidate like Warren to enter the race and has expressed wariness of the former first lady.

“I think she’s moving there rhetorically,” said Michael Lux, the co-founder and CEO of Progressive Strategies, a consulting firm focused on building the progressive movement and their positions.

Lux added that Clinton has to continue to “go the extra mile to prove that she is independent from Wall Street.”

He also suggested she should look for campaign funds outside Wall Street, arguing this will engender trust from liberals and help Clinton in the long run.

“If I were her, my view would be, you’ve got plenty of places to raise money from. Raising money is not a problem for Hillary Clinton,” Lux said. “What she can pick up politically by giving up the closeness to Wall Street far outweighs giving up the money.”

Clinton allies are very much aware of the storylines about the former secretary of State being too friendly with Wall Street.

The narrative began during the Clinton administration, when Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFormer President Clinton discharged from hospital The root of Joe Biden's troubles Bill Clinton expected to be released from hospital on Sunday MORE presided over financial deregulation and picked Wall Street executive Robert Rubin to run the Department of Treasury.

While many progressives believe Hillary Clinton will bring her own playbook to the table when it comes to Wall Street, they are reminded of the close ties by events, such as her closed-door Goldman Sachs appearances at the end of 2013, when she delivered prepared remarks and then took questions from those in the audience.

At the same time, on the speaking circuit, Clinton has taken aim at a “shadow banking system” that she says operates without accountability and has set herself up as a champion of populism. Allies, fearful of some backlash, are also trying to push that message.

“If you say, ‘Is she on the Elizabeth Warren side or the other side,’ she’s much more left of center,” said one Clinton confidante who is familiar with her thinking on economic issues. “People should not confuse her long-term relationships with people in [New York]. She has personal relationships with a lot of these people. But that does not translate into being the Wall Street go-to person.”

While the confidante acknowledged that Clinton will have to “walk a fine line” when it comes to her ties to the financial sector, the source said her positions on issues like Dodd-Frank, speak volumes.

“Rhetorically, she doesn’t pound the table, but she’s very clear about her positions,” the confidante said. “Some people will question it. … And I have this view that she’ll have strong support from the New York business community based on her time in the Senate, but that’s not how she votes or what she does.”

Other supporters say Clinton is more politically savvy and doesn’t view herself as having to pick between sides.

Ellen Tauscher, a former Democratic congresswoman from California and Wall Street executive who served under Clinton during her tenure at the State Department, said it’s “a false choice” to think that Clinton can choose between Main Street and Wall Street. “There is a symbiosis and a symmetry between them, both are a part of the way American culture and capitalism come together,” Tauscher said, adding that “politics is always about balance.”

“There is a way to be principled and progressive at the same time,” she said, and that Clinton should seek a “regulated, transparent financial system that’s not going to swish its tail and knock everybody over.”

Don Peebles, a real estate mogul based in New York and a member of Obama’s national finance committee agreed, saying it’s not about serving one demographic or the other but finding a middle ground.

“She’s going to see some things optically from the left, optically from the right, and optically from the center,” Peebles said. “Anyone pressuring her to do otherwise has her stepping outside of who she is.”

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