Skip to Content

Biden faces key test as end of fundraising quarter looms

<i>Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>US President Joe Biden discusses his Administration's commitment to seizing the opportunities and managing the risks of Artificial Intelligence
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
US President Joe Biden discusses his Administration's commitment to seizing the opportunities and managing the risks of Artificial Intelligence

By Arlette Saenz, Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein and Jasmine Wright, CNN

(CNN) — President Joe Biden is racing to boost his campaign war chest as the end of the fundraising quarter approaches Friday, marking the first major test of his campaign’s ability to generate the cash and enthusiasm needed to compete against Republicans in 2024.

In the closing days of the quarter, the campaign is ramping up its push for grassroots donors, including enlisting former President Barack Obama to tape a video with Biden to help drive small-dollar donations, CNN has learned, along with hosting a slew of down-to-the-wire, high-dollar fundraisers.

Biden’s campaign is highly attuned to how closely their early fundraising numbers will be examined for signs of the campaign’s operational strength and enthusiasm. Aides have tightly guarded the state of Biden’s campaign haul, refraining from publicly laying out a fundraising target for the second quarter or providing an early read on how much they raised in the opening days of the president’s reelection bid.

Campaign advisers insist they’ll have the money to run a successful campaign. Jeffrey Katzenberg, a co-chair of Biden’s campaign, told CNN in an interview Wednesday that he’s growing more confident about their ability to exceed the $1 billion Biden raised in 2020.

“There’s no question whatsoever that he will have all of the resources to run a highly competitive campaign at or above the level of four years ago,” Katzenberg said. “The enthusiasm, the support, the loyalty is at a 10.”

Yet even Biden’s supporters acknowledge that the headwinds he faces in his overall campaign – including dampened enthusiasm and concern over his age – will influence his effort to raise as much as $2 billion for his reelection effort. Some donors have expressed anxiety over a slow start to the money race.

“Not a lot of people are engaging right now. They’re like, ‘We’re gonna give. We’re gonna support him,’ but people aren’t as engaged in the 2024 operation right now,” one Biden campaign bundler told CNN.

Katzenberg, who will be on hand at fundraisers in Chicago and New York this week, argued Biden isn’t facing the same time crunch to raise money compared to his 2020 run when he faced a competitive Democratic primary.

“He’s not on the same path that he was four years ago. There are no primaries. The urgency and the timeline is simply not the same,” he said. “Our fundraising efforts are actually being very strategic and thoughtful about when you can activate people. And you want to activate them at the point when they are ready to actually give, and that is always around very specific moments and around urgency.”

Biden’s campaign has yet to name a national finance director, a role tasked with overseeing the overall fundraising effort, prompting frustration among some donors who wanted to see a more formal structure from the outset. The campaign’s fundraising apparatus has largely been driven by the Democratic National Committee in the opening months of the campaign.

When the president announced his reelection campaign in April, the campaign declined to provide figures for first-day or first week fundraising – as some candidates, including Biden in 2019, do when jumping into the race to demonstrate (and generate) excitement.

One person familiar with the matter said the Biden campaign’s fundraising after the video announcement was “nothing special.” A separate source familiar with the matter said the reelection campaign’s fundraising has been stable since launch date and in line with the Biden team’s projections.

“The campaign will share its fundraising numbers when we submit our FEC filing next month,” said Kevin Muñoz, a Biden campaign spokesperson. “We are encouraged by the strong response we are seeing from donors and our grassroots supporters, including a significant number of new donors since 2020 that support the President’s agenda for restoring democracy, freedom, and growing the economy by growing the middle class.”

“While MAGA Republicans duke it out over extreme, divisive, and unpopular policies in their primary, we are ensuring that we have the resources needed to run an aggressive, winning campaign,” Munoz added.

The Biden campaign declined to share its own fundraising target for this quarter, but campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez told CNN in an interview earlier this month she believes the campaign will show “strong momentum and energy.”

“Folks are gonna want to try to poke holes at anything that they can, but I think that, you know, we’ll continue to show just strong momentum and energy,” Chavez Rodriguez said.

Looking for signs of strength

Biden’s second quarter fundraising haul will likely be compared to that of his recent predecessors.

When he announced his reelection in 2011, Obama burst out of the gate with a hefty second quarter fundraising haul of $86 million for the reelect and DNC, a record-setting figure for that time. Obama announced his reelection bid in the same fundraising quarter as Biden but had a three week lead on Biden’s entry into the 2024 race.

Biden, never a prolific fundraiser, raised $21.5 million in his first quarter in the 2020 campaign, a figure that was surpassed by newcomer South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

How much money Biden and his team can raise in these early stages of the campaign could dictate how his campaign apparatus ultimately looks. So far, Biden’s team had made only a few hires and has relied in large part on the DNC, including for office space as they search for a headquarters building in Wilmington, Delaware.

DNC fundraising officials organized a summit for top donors and supporters in the days after the launch, an effort to reengage some of the highest contributors from his 2020 bid.

One tool the campaign hopes to leverage early on in their efforts is a joint fundraising agreement between the campaign, DNC and state Democratic parties, consolidating efforts to raise money early in the race and allow individual donors to contribute up to $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund.

The president has spent the past two weeks crisscrossing the country for campaign cash. He raised roughly $5 million in one day of events with California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a two-day swing through California’s Bay Area last week, a source familiar with the events said.

As the end of quarter approaches, the president is headlining five fundraisers in the span of three days, tapping into high-dollar donors in Chevy Chase, Maryland, New York City and Chicago, where the billionaire Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is hosting an event.

First lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have also hit the fundraising circuit as well. Harris brought in $1.25 million for the Biden Victory Fund at the LGBTQ Leadership Council Gala in New York City earlier this week, a source familiar with the fundraiser said.

Help from friends

The campaign also is leaning on its top surrogates this week to mobilize grassroots donors, including the Obama-Biden fundraising video rolling out on social media on Thursday.

A campaign official argued the Obama-Biden duo is “an effective pairing” to push for small-dollar donors and represented “some of our best performing content from 2020.” Obama and Biden had lunch together at the White House on Tuesday.

“He is throwing a marker down and saying, ‘Do not mistake, I am 100% in on supporting Joe Biden’s presidency,’” Katzenberg said of the Obama push. “As invaluable as his time is on the fundraising here, his endorsement, enthusiasm and continued support, friendship, loyalty. That’s what this about.”

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the chair of the campaign’s National Advisory Board and a prolific fundraiser herself, is hosting a call with other advisory board members Thursday to encourage them to tap into their donor networks in the closing days of the quarter, a campaign official said.

And advisory board members including Sens. Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Murphy, and Raphael Warnock as well as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and a handful of members of Congress – Reps. Chrissy Houlihan, Sara Jacobs, and Lauren Underwood — are also expected to assist via e-mails, texts, and online fundraising.

The campaign is hoping to galvanize online donations after Biden raised $700 million online during the 2020 cycle. White House digital strategy director Rob Flaherty, who ran the 2020 campaign’s digital operation, is expected to join the campaign this summer with an eye in part towards boosting online fundraising.

Campaign advisers say they’ve seen positive signs about in the number of new donors drawn to the campaign, with one strategist saying, “The donor base right out of the box is expanded.”

The campaign has sought to use moments like former President Donald Trump’s CNN Town Hall and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Twitter launch snafu to expand their donor network, though the official declined to say specifically how much was raised as part of those efforts.

Along with about a dozen fundraiser events headlined by the president, Chavez Rodriguez, her deputy, Quentin Fulks, and Democratic National Committee Executive Director Sam Cornale spent part of this month traveling the country to meet with top donors, local Democratic officials and other supporters in an effort to stir up enthusiasm and build fundraising momentum.

Signs of malaise

Still, among the donor class, there is a certain malaise – a combination of fundraising fatigue, the lack of a specific Republican opponent as a motivator and a general lack of enthusiasm for Biden’s candidacy.

Some Biden allies predict the president will have little trouble fundraising if Trump emerges as the Republican nominee, believing the former president is a strong motivator for donors and voters alike.

But that message and the sentiment behind it belie an overall weariness among those being asked to dig deeper into their pockets.

“There was fatigue during the midterms because you had this battle to save the country in 2020. People feel like the fundraising has just never stopped,” said one Democratic fundraiser, adding that any usual “cooling-off period” never arrived.

“It’s just constant. And every quarter is the most important quarter,” the fundraiser said.

Waiting for an opponent

Uncertainty in the Republican primary field could also hold back fundraising at this stage in the election, with nearly two months before candidates face off in the first GOP debate and more than six months before primary voters cast their first ballots.

“Ultimately, the campaign is relying on one big thing above all else: They’re relying on Trump or DeSantis or someone who’s just so unpalatable being the nominee. That’ll drive everything,” the fundraiser predicted.

John Morgan, one of a handful of donors to attend last week’s White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told CNN he’s looking to hold a fundraiser for Biden in the fall.

“The money is going to pour in – and if Trump is the nominee, it will pour in by double because Republicans will be writing checks too,” Morgan predicted.

“Everybody was panicked last time but then he got the nomination, and he raised a billion dollars, and if Trump is the nominee, he might raise two billion,” Morgan said.

The average minimum price to attend one of Biden’s first dozen fundraising events, a Democratic fundraiser said, is approximately $25,000 per person, with the average event raising between $1.5 to $2 million.

Biden has used these events to test drive and sharpen a 2024 message, seeking to reframe concerns about his age.

“It’s a legitimate thing to raise the question of age,” Biden told donors at a May fundraiser at the Manhattan apartment of former Blackstone executive Tony James. “I hope what I’ve been able to bring to this job, and will continue to bring, is a little bit of wisdom.”

Biden has also worked to cater his message to donors who want face time with their candidate.

“People want his time, which is much more difficult this time around,” compared to when he was a candidate in 2020, one bundler said.

Ahead of one of this week’s fundraising events, an expected attendee told CNN he had to warn his colleagues who are attending their first Biden fundraiser to manage expectations: “It’s gonna be cool no matter what. You get to shake hands with the president and take a photo with him. We’re all excited for that. But, you know, he is not Barack Obama. He’s not Bill Clinton. He’s not George W. Bush,” the attendee said.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content