But Wall Street money has proved to be a double-edged sword for Democrats, as Hillary Clinton discovered when she was hounded four years ago for delivering private speeches to Goldman Sachs and other firms. Progressive voters and activists — many of whom backed Mr. Biden’s more liberal rivals in the primary — are particularly leery of any appearance of coziness with the finance industry.
Asked about Wall Street’s role in Mr. Biden’s current bid, the campaign invoked Mr. Biden’s refrain that America wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers, C.E.O.s and hedge fund managers.
“Everything you need to know about this, Joe Biden has said himself throughout his career — and repeatedly on the trail since the earliest days of this campaign,” said T.J. Ducklo, a Biden spokesman.
As a senator from Delaware, Mr. Biden has for decades had relationships with credit-card companies there, but less of a presence in the financial power center of New York. He has counted a small circle of finance executives as supporters. Marc Lasry, the co-founder of Avenue Capital, for example, held a fund-raiser for Mr. Biden during his first run for president in 1988, and continues to back him now. The former hedge-fund executive Eric Mindich and the short-seller James Chanos have been supporters from well before the pandemic began.
It doesn’t hurt that Mr. Biden has also not crusaded against Wall Street, the way his primary rivals Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders did. Financial executives mostly seem to believe that while their taxes would rise in a Biden administration, they would not be subjected to the kind of “fat cat” rhetoric that soured some of their relationships with former President Barack Obama.
“Rich people are just as patriotic as poor people,” Mr. Biden told donors at a fund-raiser at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan last year. At a Brookings Institution gathering in 2018, he said, “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble.”
Mr. Biden’s more benign stance toward the finance industry has provoked skepticism among advocates for stricter regulation. “When the candidate doesn’t have a clear plan on something like Wall Street reform, it tilts the playing field toward what is probably the most powerful industry in the world,” said Carter Dougherty, a spokesman for Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group. “We need more than ‘not Trump appointees’ when it comes to financial regulation.”