Why Warren Buffett’s endorsement may not help Hillary Clinton

In case you haven't noticed, a lot of billionaires are doing more than just dipping their toes in the political waters this presidential election season. It seems like every day, another billionaire is very publicly and emphatically endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Whether it's more politically experienced billionaires like former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, celebrity billionaires like Oprah Winfrey, or multi-faceted billionaires like Mark Cuban, it sure seems like the most famous rich Americans are "with her."

Of course Donald Trump is a billionaire himself with a few billionaire backers of his own, such as Carl Icahn, Harold Hamm, and Peter Thiel. It's not that billionaires usually sit out elections, but this time their collective involvement seems to be on steroids with so many of them speaking in prime time slots at the national conventions, appearing at campaign rallies, and making numerous TV appearances on behalf of their favorite candidates.

But on Monday evening, we got to see the one billionaire who makes these new and even not-so-new politically activist billionaires look like nothing. At a Clinton campaign rally in suburban Omaha, Buffett eviscerated Trump's business and investing skills, even saying that a "monkey throwing a dart" would have brought better returns to investors than Trump did with his Atlantic City hotels listing back in 1995. Buffett joined the chorus of Trump critics demanding that he release his tax returns. And he questioned Trump's basic decency for sparring with the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in the Iraq war.

Buffett is unique in his abilities to wield maximum influence while absorbing a minimum amount of personal criticism… at least the kind that anyone can remember over time. The image of Buffett as kindly, lovable, and — most importantly — down-to-Earth/reasonable, is the kind of persona even Buffett's billions couldn't buy.

His delivery is a sharp contrast to Mark Cuban's nasty "jagoff" slam on Trump that was delivered loudly and with a sneer, and Bloomberg's angry "I know a con when I see one" rant against Trump at the Democratic convention. At that Clinton rally, Buffett seemed to be almost out of breath and folksy as ever even as he lowered his "monkey" boom on the GOP nominee.

Buffett also sets a tone about the economy that even the most popular politicians could never dream of matching. When Clinton, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden wrapped up the Democratic convention last week with mostly positive descriptions of the current U.S. economy, they were attacked by critics from all sides of the political aisle. But when Warren Buffett delivered a far more optimistic assessment just a few months ago and even said that today's young Americans have it better than any generation before them, he came away unscathed.

I don't know if Buffett has ever been coached on how to look nice and lovable even when delivering seething attacks, but he always nails it. No matter what he says, Buffett comes out ahead.

And yet, Buffett's endorsement of Clinton may not actually be a good thing for her.

With so many billionaires jumping on Clinton's bandwagon, she risks losing the most effective campaign pitch of the Democratic party: that they are the party of the "little guy." If you look at history, the Democrats usually win presidential elections where they stick to that message and present the voters with a plausible candidate to pull that off. Think of Jimmy Carter in 1976, Bill Clinton in 1992, and Barack Obama in 2008. All of them captured an image of being change agents for the less fortunate. That was a brand the overly cerebral Michael Dukakis, and patrician Al Gore and John Kerry simply could not pull off. And, with so many Democratic voters "feeling the Bern" of Bernie Sanders and his promises to raise taxes on the rich and bring about wealth equality, there may be no year more important to lock in that party-of-the-little-guy platform than this year.

Remember the "Billionaires for Romney" and "Billionaires for Bush" gimmicks that Democrats used against Republicans in past elections? Well, here we go: "Billionaires for Hillary." It's already starting to pop up in a few places.

If Clinton isn't careful, an actual billionaire celebrity Republican may succeed at connecting with all the "Average Joe" Americans better than she will.

I mean, when did you ever see Hillary Clinton eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on her private plane?!

Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Power Lunch." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

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