The risks of a second Trump presidency are “incalculable and unpredictable,” he said. Of course, Peterffy has previously gone on record saying that he would likely vote for Trump in 2024 if the former president clinches the nomination.
Peterffy’s comments reflect the collective angst of Wall Street Republicans whose views on Trump are completely divorced from those of the GOP base, according to conversations with more than a dozen bankers, attorneys, political consultants and asset managers. There was a period when it seemed as though Trump might fade; allowing a younger, calmer alternative to take his place. Instead, the opposite happened.
A series of criminal indictments have had no effect on his popularity. Some believe it crystallized his support. Now, unless Haley or DeSantis pull off the impossible — or if there’s a deus ex machina event that upends the political world — high-dollar GOP donors will soon face an uncomfortable decision as to how to proceed.
“My sense is Wall Street will be somewhat split on a Trump-Biden rematch,” former Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told POLITICO. “The border issue, foreign policy, regulation, trade, stability and mental clarity will weigh on people in varying ways.”
For some, the thought of a second Trump term will be enough to keep them off the field. Wall Street likes predictability. And while some of the finance industry’s kingmakers might blanch at the thought of four more years of President Joe Biden, the potential dysfunction of a second Trump term could raise existential questions about the future of American democracy.
Setting aside Trump’s recent noodling on what he could accomplish in a one-day dictatorship, markets are increasingly wary of how U.S. political disruptions can ripple across the global financial system. Contested elections and January 6-style spasms of political violence now affect the market for U.S. Treasury securities. The uncertainty over Trump’s broader agenda, or who he might tap to execute that agenda, has muted any enthusiasm for some of his pro-business leanings.
Clearly, there’s an appetite for a Republican with Trump’s zeal for light-touch regulation without the accompanying baggage. That’s why donors pumped tens of millions of dollars into DeSantis’s Florida campaign when he was widely viewed as Trump’s most viable challenger. Now, many are pinning their hopes on Haley — a former South Carolina governor whose poise on the debate stage won the praise of power brokers like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio.
Financiers are shoveling cash into her campaign and Super PACs in a late-inning attempt to stifle the former president’s momentum in Iowa, New Hampshire and Haley’s home state. But while she’s generally well-regarded in financial circles — and has been for some time — her path to the nomination is tenuous.
She’ll have to outperform DeSantis in the Iowa caucus and run a strong enough campaign in New Hampshire to pierce the notion of Trump’s inevitable victory, Eric Levine, a New York attorney and Haley fundraiser, told POLITICO.
If Haley’s and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s combined tally in the Granite State can come close to tying Trump, voters could start saying, “maybe this guy is vulnerable,” he said. “As soon as you peel away that aura of invincibility, Trump’s a loser.”
Levine’s confidence in Haley’s path is not universally held. While she’s secured the backing of the Koch network, other major GOP donors like Blackstone Group founder CEO Stephen Schwarzman or Citadel’s Ken Griffin haven’t come off the sidelines (at least not yet). And to the extent Haley has amassed support in the financial services world, her opponents – including DeSantis, who had been a Wall Street favorite — are using it as a line of attack.
That underscores a belief, at least in some circles, that Wall Street might not be able to do much to affect the outcome of the election.
Libby Cantrill, a managing director at the investment management firm PIMCO who’s in charge of assessing political and policy risks, put it more succinctly in a recent client note previewing the fourth GOP debate. This is “still just a race for #2.”
If silver is the only prize available, many in the financial services world expect GOP donors to fall in line behind Trump, even if they were repelled by his denial of the 2020 election results and alleged criminal activity. Some will sit out, of course, or focus on down ballot races affecting the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees. But if they choose to engage with the former president, Trump allies say the door is open.
“Trump is so much better than any of these candidates for Wall Street, when it comes to ballooning the economy and allowing for the free flow of business and competition,” said Constellations Group CEO Bill White, a Trump fundraiser who previously led the Intrepid Museum in New York City.
White added that the former president will welcome big ticket donors back into the fold “with open arms,” even if they’ve already made contributions to his challengers. To the extent there are any concerns about a Trump dictatorship, no one in his circle has raised any alarms.
“People want President Trump to be strong. They know, a weak president — like the one we have now — is very dangerous for our global stability, our global economy,” White said.
The DeSantis, Haley and Trump campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.