WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wall Street money is heavily favoring Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the race to unseat President Barack Obama, the latest signal of business unease with Obama's tenure and perhaps a bet on his re-election chances.
Romney, a co-founder of buyout firm Bain Capital, stresses his Wall Street acumen in his bid to win the Republican nomination to challenge Obama in the November 2012 election.
About a quarter of the $18 million Romney raised in the second quarter came from the financial sector, while 4.4 percent of the $48 million Obama's campaign raised came from that group, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Employees at the five biggest U.S. banks made the list of Romney's top 20 donors, while just Goldman Sachs made it onto Obama's contributor roll.
With 14 months before voters go to the polls, Obama's handling of the fledgling economic recovery is at all-time lows with unemployment stubbornly stuck above 9 percent.
Wall Street money has been moving away from Obama and Democrats since 2010, in part fueled by Obama's harsh criticism of banks and financial overhaul legislation he signed last year, which banks say is burdensome.
These latest figures confirm that trend.
The data also may suggest who Wall Street thinks has the best chance of becoming elected, said Willis Sparks, who analyzes elections for investors at Eurasia Group.
"Wall Street is in the business of picking winners," he said. "There is some bet hedging going on right now about whether Obama can be re-elected."
Those who work for Goldman Sachs were Romney's biggest backers, giving about $293,000, while those with links to the investment behemoth gave Democrat Obama about $45,000, according to the analysis.
Companies themselves cannot give directly to candidates, but executives and political committees may do so.
In all of 2008, Goldman employees were Obama's second biggest backer, giving him more than $1 million. The same group also was Romney's biggest 2008 donors with about $235,000 in contributions.
Romney had led most Republican polls until Texas Governor Rick Perry jumped into the race last month. Perry is now leading Romney 24 percent to 17 percent, according to an average of polls by realclearpolitics.com.
To be sure, Obama is not wanting for campaign cash. He raised $86 million in the second quarter through his campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Of that, his campaign brought in $48 million.
FEW SMALL BACKERS, PERRY FACTOR
Romney's numbers have dark spots too, said Jim Kessler, an analyst for Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank backed by Wall Street executives and other business interests.
About three-quarters of the funds Romney raised gave the maximum $2,500 donation and cannot give again until the general election, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.
Smaller donors are more passionate, willing to give again and likelier to translate to votes. Obama's fundraising base is much broader with only 18 percent maxing out.
"I don't see the fervency behind Romney," Kessler said. "I have definitely heard some disillusionment with the president on Wall Street, but it is much less than it was a year ago."
Romney is seen as more moderate than Perry and the other major Republican candidates.
A major question mark is Perry, who is also a prolific fundraiser, having won three races as Texas Governor. It remains to be seen as to whether he can raise big money nationally.
Employees of cable giant Comcast Corp were the biggest givers to Obama's campaign. Comcast executive David Cohen is "bundling" funds for Obama.
Bundlers commit to raise big money, often between $50,000 and $500,000, for candidates. While not required by law, Obama released names of these heavy-hitters. None of the major Republican candidates has revealed those names.
(Reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Bill Trott)