How Biden is catching up to the Trump money ‘juggernaut’
By Shané Goldmacher
Former Vice President Joe Biden will hold his first event of the 2020 campaign with former President Barack Obama on Tuesday, and more than 120,000 people have already
paid to attend, according to the Biden campaign, raising more than $4 million.
The joint appearance will be the biggest grassroots fun- draiser of the cycle for the Democratic Party, serving not just as a coming-out party for the former running mates but also as something of a punctuation mark on Biden’s arrival as a financial force in his own right.
In May, for the first time, Biden and the Democratic National Committee outraised President DonaldTrump and the Republican Party, $80.8 million to $74 million, and receipts are on pace to surge even higher in June. Biden’s online fundraising so far this month has already surpassed May’s $34.4 million total, according to people familiar with the matter. Now, some party officials see $100 million as an achievable goal for June.
“May is the floor for June,” declared Tom Perez, chairman of the DNC, who, along with senior campaign officials, declined to comment on the potential to reach $100 million.
The outpouring of cash has allowed Biden to sharply cut into the enormous financial advantage that Trump and the Republican National Committee built in the lead-up to 2020, shaving tens of millions of dollars off what had been a $187 million edge entering April. Since the beginning of March, Biden and the DNC have banked more than $100 million.
Biden’s at-times anemic fundraising was one of his most gla- ring weaknesses during the primary race, when he was often badly outspent by rivals. The recent surge in donations comes as Trump appears increasingly vulnerable, reeling under the pressure of a national health crisis, an economic collapse and a wave of protests over racial injustice. Biden leadsTrump in almost every national poll. Still, Trump remains a prolific fundraiser, reportedly raising $10 million at a recent dinner, and he has a significant cash advantage, even if it is no longer triple that of Biden.
Biden’s brightening financial picture is the result of a rapid confluence of events.
The primary race ended earlier and the Democratic Party coalesced faster behind the former vice president than expected, sparing him the expense of a drawn-out contest across dozens of states. The coronavirus pandemic sharply shrank the cost of campaigning, as Biden sheltered in place in Delaware for nearly three months. He did not need to add staff as quickly or as robustly as he otherwise might have.
At the same time, top Democratic donors have widely embraced virtual events, willingly forgoing some of the traditio- nal perks of attending lavish in-person fundraisers while cutting checks for up to $620,000. And as Trump falters on the national stage, small donors have seized at the chance of ousting him.
“Donald Trump is the best poster child for Democratic fun- draising in the history of Democratic politics,” said Chris Korge, national finance chairman of the DNC.
Marc Nathanson, a veteran Democratic fundraiser who helped host a Biden event Friday, said the minimum price to get on that call was $50,000, and they doubled an initial goal of raising $1 million.
“We raised over $2 million on a Zoom call of all things,” Nathanson said.
Biden’s advisers see 2020 largely playing out as a referendum on Trump. The president’s erratic response to world events — the threats to sic the “most vicious dogs” on protesters, the forcible removal of peaceful demonstrators for his photo op outside a church, his use of racist language in calling the coronavirus the “kung flu” — has served as an accelerant for grassroots giving, in particular as Americans took to the streets nationwide to protest systemic racism and police brutality.
About six weeks ago, the DNC saw about 20 unsolicited $1,200 donations show up online — unusually large sums to arrive unexpectedly. Perez asked his team to investigate. In turns out, people had decided to essentially forward their government stimulus checks to defeat Trump.
“We actually think that we’ve become a really powerful place where people feel like they can do something about what’s happening right now,” said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager.
For many months, Trump’s team has boasted about its prolific fundraising hauls and swelling list of online supporters, with Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager, calling his operation a “juggernaut” in October, then again in January and February and May.
But the flip side of the enormous $817 million raised by the Trump campaign and the RNC since the beginning of 2019 — and the $265 million still in the bank at the end of May — is that Trump and the Republican Party have already spent more than half a billion dollars and yet still entered the summer of 2020 trailing in the polls, with Biden cracking 50% in one prominent polling average. Trump spent $22.6 million on television ads from mid-March to mid-June, according to data from Advertising Analytics, a media-tracking firm; Biden just went on the air Friday. “The Republican war chest continues to dwarf that of Joe Biden and the Democrats,” the Trump campaign said in a statement over the weekend. (The Biden team has not released its exact cash-on-hand total, but campaign records indicate it is from $120 million to $150 million.)
Now, money is coming from all corners.The Biden campaign processed more than 900,000 online contributions in May on ActBlue, the main online portal for Democratic giving, and more than half of the donors were new to the campaign. This month began even faster, as Biden invested millions in online ads and expanded his email list by 1.5 million people, tapping into the activism arising from the protests.
Online donations were up 62% at the DNC over the first 10 days of June compared with the same period in May. Proceeds from direct mail are booming, too: The committee saw its best May for direct mail since 2004, and the Biden campaign saw a large increase as well, according to party and campaign officials. Overall, the number of donors to Biden has tripled since February.
“Its increasingly clear we’re going to be highly competitive with our resources against Trump,” O’Malley Dillon said.