Bloomberg News

Protests Show Wall Street Will Be a Campaign Issue, Axelrod Says

October 17, 2011

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that started in New York show Americans want a “financial system that works” and don’t want new banking rules overturned, a chief campaign strategist for President Barack Obama said.

“I don’t think any American is impressed when they see Governor Romney and all the Republican candidates say the first thing they’d do is roll back Wall Street reforms and go back to where we were before the crisis and let Wall Street write its own rules,” David Axelrod said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program. “That will be an issue in this campaign.”

Backers of the movement say they represent “the 99 percent,” a nod to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.

Obama said yesterday at an event dedicating a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. that if the civil rights leader were alive today he would say that “the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who described anti-Wall Street demonstrators as “growing mobs” earlier this month, said yesterday the increasing frustration in the U.S. is warranted. “Too many people are out of work,” the Virginia Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Where I’m most concerned, is we have elected leaders in this town who frankly are joining in an effort to blame others rather than focusing on the policies that have brought about the current situation,” Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said of the anti-Wall Street protests.

In New York, participants marched past a JPMorgan Chase & Co. branch Oct. 15 and urged clients to close accounts. At least 6,000 gathered later in Times Square, the organizers estimated. Hong Kong, Sydney, Toronto and other cities also saw protests, which yesterday turned violent in Rome, in what organizers called a “global day of action against Wall Street greed.” The Occupy Wall Street protest has spread to U.S. cities including Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Axelrod also criticized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for shifting his positions on issues and said the fund-raising leads held by Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and Texas Governor Rick Perry don’t guarantee they will be the last candidates standing at the end of the 2012 Republican primary season.

“This is a funny year, so I don’t know” who the final candidates are likely to be, he said.

--With assistance from Phil Mattingly and Kevin Costelloe in Washington; Esme E. Duprez, Suzanne Woolley, Charles Mead, Jeff Kearns, Joel Stonington, Henry Goldman, Chris Dolmetsch, Andrea Riquier, Jeff Kearns and David M. Levitt in New York; Freeman Klopott in Albany and Stacie Servetah and Terrence Dopp in Trenton. Editors: Ann Hughey, Kevin Costelloe

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at

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