In a room full of avowed capitalists, policies that sound to some like socialism are bound not to go over well.
That’s why the recent surge by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic presidential race polls was jangling the nerves of some of the finance professionals gathered Thursday at the Delivering Alpha conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor.
“They won’t open the stock market if Elizabeth Warren is the next president,” joked Leon Cooperman, the legendary head of Omega Advisors.
“You don’t make the poor people rich by making rich people poor,” he added. “The Democratic Party seems to be leaning towards the left to the policy, which is very harmful for the economy. I don’t like the shift to the left.”
The most recent NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll showed Warren, the Massachusetts firebrand who has made anti-Wall Steet sentiment a cornerstone of her public life, emerging as the primary challenger to former Vice President Joe Biden.
The poll put Warren’s support at 25%, still behind Biden’s field-leading 31% but a big jump from her 19% showing in July. Most of the rest of the crowded Democratic field is fading into the background, with the only other challenger in double digits being Sen. Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats but identifies as a Democratic Socialist.
“She’s not my candidate of choice,” said one hedge fund executive who asked not to be identified. “This is going to be a difficult choice for the Democrats. “
Vice President Mike Pence, who will join President Donald Trump in 2020 to take on whatever Democratic ticket comes together, cautioned attendees about the consequences of policies like Warren and much of the field backs.
He pointed out the strong growth under Trump’s presidency, which he said could be reversed if some of the big-government proposals go through.
“When we look at the other side, I have to tell you, it’s not so much who but what they stand for,” Pence said.
“Whoever their nominee is, when you look at their policies like Medicare for all and the Green New Deal, their plans to raise taxes, increase regulations, grow government, it would crush the economy,” he added.
That sentiment had some legs among the hedge funders in the crowd.
One financial pro, asked if he fears a Warren presidency, nodded vigorously and said, “Yeah, I do. Regardless of what you think about Trump, he’s been very good for the economy.”