"I think if Gov. Romney is elected, there will be an attempt to go back and see what parts of Dodd-Frank are particularly onerous," said Phillip Swagel, co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Financial Regulatory Reform Initiative.
Obama has touted the financial regulatory overhaul as the "toughest reforms on Wall Street since the 1930s."
"Does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street?" Obama said during last month's first debate. "Because if you do, then Gov. Romney is your candidate. But that's not what I believe."
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of the lead authors of the complex legislation, noted that House Republican leaders didn't hold a single vote on repealing financial reform after taking control in 2011, but held several votes to repeal the health care law.
Although just three congressional Republicans voted for the Dodd-Frank law, which much of the financial industry opposed, it's difficult politically to try to roll back Wall Street regulations.
But Frank said he still is worried about the effect of a Romney victory on the law that bears his name.
"He can do enormous damage just by changing the regulators," Frank said. "He would simply appoint people who didn't want to use the powers."
The financial reform law expanded the power of the Treasury secretary by making that Cabinet member the head of a new panel of regulators called the Financial Stability Oversight Council.
In addition, the president appoints new chairs of the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. And often, a change at the White House prompts the heads of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other independent agencies with remaining years in their terms to step down, if the new president desires.
"I think most people don't want to stay in those jobs if the president doesn't want them. ... It really weakens you," said former FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, a Bush-appointed Republican.
She offered to step down when Obama was elected, but the president asked her to stay, which she did until her five-year term ended last year.
The chairman of the Federal Reserve, however, normally doesn't volunteer to step down early.
Romney already has said he would not reappoint Ben S. Bernanke as chairman of the nation's central bank when Bernanke's term expires in early 2014. And Obama's recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau expires at the end of 2013. Cordray, a Democrat, has said he would complete his term regardless of whether Romney is elected.
"Dodd-Frank is all about regulatory implementation, so I think there's a lot of discretion and latitude to implement Dodd-Frank or not implement Dodd-Frank as the next administration may see fit," Bair said.