It may sound absurd that a super-rich real estate mogul who peddles opulence is enticing voters who are fed up with the finance community.
And yet a new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll reveals that a whopping 65 percent of Republican front-runner Donald Trump's supporters say they're "unsatisfied" or "mad as hell" at Wall Street.
Overall, the poll exposed bipartisan disgust among those planning to attend Iowa's presidential caucuses in February with those who invest in business or politics: 64 percent of those planning to attend a Democratic caucus voiced dissatisfaction with Wall Street, but in the stereotypically more business- friendly Republican party, the figure was an almost equally high 62 percent. Among likely Democratic caucus-goers, 94 percent rated themselves unsatisfied or "mad as hell" about the amount of money in politics. For Republicans, the figure was 91 percent.
So why are people upset with the monied elites backing a candidate who brags about how rich he is?
Trump's position of strength with these voters may be partly a product of rhetorical attacks on the financial industry blared through his celebrity megaphone. But it's also due to a series of unorthodox policy views that are uniquely tenable for a self-funded billionaire candidate who isn't relying on wealthy donors to stay afloat in the race.
The exuberant capitalist has echoed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, who's seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, in painting his rivals as beholden to campaign contributors. "Jeb Bush is a puppet to his donors," Trump told a crowd at the Iowa State Fair mid-August. The billionaire, who has vowed to fund his own campaign, is probably the only Republican candidate who can afford to alienate the party's financiers.
Committing what amounts to Republican heresy, Trump says he wants to raise taxes on rich people like himself. Specifically, he has proposed to end the "carried interest loophole" that grants preferential tax treatment to hedge fund and private equity managers.
"The middle class is getting clobbered in this country," Trump told Bloomberg's Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. "You know the middle class built this country, not the hedge fund guys, but I know people in hedge funds that pay almost nothing and it's ridiculous, OK?"
Trump's posturing is uniquely suited to an election year in which financial elites and their perceived boosters in the political establishment are hated across the ideological spectrum. A four-decade trend of stagnating wages, combined with unpopular financial industry bailouts appears to be feeding the frustration that's pushing political outsiders. Not only Trump but the surging Ben Carson, a retired brain surgeon, are in vogue with Republicans, the latest Iowa Poll shows.
In addition, Trump has broken with top Republican rivals by promising not to cut Social Security. "I will protect Social Security," he told a crowd in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday. "I will protect your Medicare and your Medicaid." By contrast other top-tier Republican presidential contenders like Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have suggested that long-term Social Security cuts are necessary. It's a position backed by conservative donors and free-market activists. But not voters—nearly 80 percent of Republicans oppose cutting the retirement program, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll in April.