President Obama is either raising money from the financial sector like a man with many friends and supporters in that field despite his attempts to regulate it.
Or, he is losing the money race to Mitt Romney, that veteran of the private-equity world, because of his administration's efforts to clamp down on Wall Street with new regulations.
It all seems to depend on which news headline you prefer to go with.
Here's a Washington Post headline from Wednesday: "Obama has more cash from financial sector than GOP hopefuls combined, data show."
And here's a New York Times headline of a few days earlier: "Romney Beating Obama in a Fight for Wall St. Cash."
Actually, while at first blush the headlines appear contradictory, the stories agree more than not.
Obama is raising money for both his campaign and the Democratic National Committee which will also aid his re-election effort.
So he can accept larger checks from fewer deep pockets than the Republican candidates who are only raising money for their individual presidential campaigns.
Federal Election Commission rules allow an individual can only give $2,500 per election meaning that amount can be donated for a primary race and a similar amount during the general election. The same wealthy individual can give $30,800 to the party committee.
Thus, Romney is collecting more than Obama in those "smaller" donations while Obama is lapping the field in the larger ones.
The Post reported on one irony that this has created: Obama did better in terms of total money raised from Bain Capital, the private-equity firm Romney helped start, than the former Massachusetts governor himself did.
Consider the case of Bain Capital, the Boston-based private equity firm that was co-founded by Romney and where he made his fortune. Not surprisingly, Romney has strong support at the firm, raking in $34,000 from 18 Bain employees, according to the analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
But Obama has outdone Romney on his own turf, collecting $76,600 from Bain Capital employees through September — and he only needed three donors to do it.
This definitely makes Obama seem much more efficient than Romney, collecting as he did more than double the money Romney did from a sixth of the people.
Meanwhile, both the Post and Times note that Obama faces a more difficult balancing act than Romney.
Obama clearly would like to continue tapping into the public's anger at the financial sector following the bailout of the large bank-holding companies and AIG, the housing and foreclosure crisis and Wall Street salaries and bonuses.
But he has to calibrate that since too much of it could make it harder for him to raise the kind of money he needs to compete with what is likely to be the mother of all negative campaigns in 2012.
From the Times:
The gap in Wall Street giving to Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney underscores disenchantment with Mr. Obama in the industry and the challenges both candidates will face in grappling with public anger about the financial world.
For much of the last year, aides to Mr. Obama have sought to mollify Wall Street executives still bristling over the president's criticisms of their profits and bonuses, while defending the administration's program of tougher oversight and regulation as both necessary and beneficial to the industry in the long term.
But with Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who once ran the private equity firm Bain Capital, the candidate many in Mr. Obama's camp believe is his most likely Republican opponent next fall, Mr. Obama's campaign appears to sense an opportunity to harness public resentment over an industry that has largely thrived while the rest of the economy has not.