Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Hillary Clinton continues to lap her presidential rivals from both parties in fundraising, pulling in $29 million from July through September. She finished the third quarter with $33 million in the bank — $6 million ahead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (and $20 million past the nearest GOP contender, though the money can only be spent during the primaries). But if she’s sending thank-you notes, not many will have Wall Street addresses. Employees of eight of the biggest banks, for example, only pitched in $125,000 over the three-month period. That’s enough to outpace her nearest-running rival, but considering Sanders is a self-described Democratic socialist who wants to break up the big banks, it isn’t really saying much. And consider how Clinton’s latest Wall Street haul compares to what she raised from the industry during the same period in her 2008 bid: In the third quarter of 2007, she collected more than $625,000 from the same sources, a Fortune review of federal election records shows.
Of course, a lot’s changed since 2007. Then, Clinton was the junior senator from New York, representing a financial industry enjoying dizzying highs before the crash. The ensuing crisis spawned populist movements on both ends of the political spectrum that are still exerting centrifugal pull on each party’s establishment. As Republicans in Washington stood athwart Wall Street reform, Democrats pushed it into law. So these days, while friction over the issue aggravates the GOP’s base-establishment divide, Democrats are haggling over how far they should veer to bring the industry to heel. Clinton has tacked left, tracking her party’s lurch. But her proposals, while tough — she includes a call for prosecuting executives guilty of wrongdoing and targeting so-called shadow banking, like hedge funds — wouldn’t upend the industry altogether. The flight of Wall Street money from Clinton tracks a broader realignment by the sector, from 58 percent in favor of Democratic candidates in 2008 to 69 percent for Republicans in 2012. Clinton likely won’t miss the money, considering the political currency she gains from her anti-Wall Street pose.
• Biden isn’t out yet
Vice President Joe Biden’s extended flirtation with a 2016 presidential bid has frustrated Hillary Clinton’s regulars for months. They thought their candidate finally foreclosed on his potential bid when Clinton turned in a dominating performance at the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas last Tuesday. Not so fast, Biden backers say. A message from a key Biden surrogate indicates Obama’s deputy hasn’t yet quite made up his mind, hoping to reserve a few more days to mull the race, even as Clinton builds on a strong lead. Washington Post
• Bush and Rubio feud while Trump cruises
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — the former mentor-mentee pair now facing off in the Republican presidential race — continued their sniping this week over who had the stronger third-quarter fundraising performance. The differences between their reports were, in the scheme of things, incidental. And that fact points to the larger dynamic in which their performances should be considered: Despite their raising and spending, neither one of the establishment staples has been able to make meaningful gains in the polls against Donald Trump. Despite his self-professed surfeit of cash, the enduring if unlikely GOP frontrunner has spent vanishingly little — a troubling sign for the one-time favorites. Washington Examiner
• Hillary Clinton is spending like she already won
Hillary Clinton has doubled her nearest rival’s spending in assembling her staff, tripled it for office space, and shelled out millions more for advertising, the Democratic frontrunner’s latest campaign finance disclosure shows. The spending reveals a campaign still aiming to knock out the competition through the sheer force of its resources and perceived inevitability. New York Times
Around the Water Cooler
• Consider the possibility that Trump could win the GOP nod and it wouldn’t be awful
Conservative thinkers have spent a season dismissing the thought that Donald Trump’s presidential bid was anything but a lark. Now, three months after he secured a commanding lead atop the polls and four months before Republican primary voting begins, they’re beginning to grapple with the possibility he could be a real contender. So, what if Trump could not only win but rise to the occasion? The fact that right-leaning pundits now consider the thought testifies to Trump’s unlikely staying power. The Daily Beast
• Theranos’ board is stacked with Washington insiders
As a bombshell Wall Street Journal report on the multibillion-dollar startup raised key questions about the blood-testing company’s operations, new scrutiny is training on its board of Washington graybeards. As one Fortune editor argues, the board of bold-faced names of former government luminaries appears to have been “assembled for its regulatory and governmental connections, not for its understanding of the company or its technology.” And that in itself “raises significant governance issues at a moment like this one, issues that may bedevil the company in the days and months to come.” Fortune
• Hill gridlock could scramble key measures of economic activity
When confronting the wages of Congressional inaction, we mostly contemplate real-time damage to economic growth. Now, there’s a subtler outcome: the report used to build estimates of gross domestic product, corporate profits and the Fed’s financial accounts is imperiled. The survey that supplies the data for those measures lost its authorization at the end of September as part of the larger showdown between the parties over government funding. The lapse could complicate the Fed’s thinking about whether to raise interest rates. Wall Street Journal