Biden makes first in-person appeal to donors for ’24 campaign
President Joe Biden lambasted “MAGA Republicans” and emphasized abortion rights in a pitch to more than 100 supporters and elected officials Friday, as part of the first in-person donor confab of his 2024 reelection campaign.
The reception, while not a fundraiser, was the first of a two-day meeting that offered Democratic Party officials the opportunity to sell donors on Biden’s reelection campaign strategy and begin an ambitious fundraising push aimed at topping the $1 billion the campaign raised last election cycle.
It also marked a new effort to bring untapped donors into the fold. Barring appearances at parties like state dinners or the occasional fundraiser for down-ballot races, donors have consistently said they were not being prioritized or the White House had failed to sufficiently bring them into the fold.
“Here’s the bottom line. It’s very simple: We need you. Our democracy needs you because this is about our freedoms,” Biden told the jubilant crowd.
But it’s unclear whether that energy has translated into material fundraising success — particularly when it comes to small-dollar donations. The campaign has not provided any clues about its early haul, as it did immediately after the launch in 2019. Back then, Biden faced a number of Democratic rivals, including many who released in real-time how much they had been raising for the campaign.
There’s a sensitivity in the campaign that the early number could feed a negative narrative, according to a donor involved in the campaign. Some major donors have not yet been asked to give, according to that person.
Biden did not become a fundraising juggernaut until he entered the general election and faced off against Donald Trump. While he bested the Democratic field over the first 24 hours, he struggled to keep pace with rivals like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who built large war chests on the strength of donors who signed up to regularly give small amounts. Biden’s standing greatly improved later in the primary process as rivals withdrew from the race amid poor showings and he consolidated their supporters.
A campaign official maintained that the 2024 fundraising operation was well-positioned this cycle, and the Democratic National Committee had brought in $276 million for the midterms, a record for a midterm cycle. The campaign had already made a two-week, seven-figure ad buy that was running in six battleground states.
The Friday night reception drew more than 100 Democratic donors and officials to the lavish Salamander hotel in D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront. Among the elected officials were Govs. Gavin Newsom of California, Wes Moore of Maryland, and Phil Murphy of New Jersey. The first Gen-Z congressman, 26-year-old Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), also attended, as did several of Biden’s newly announced campaign co-chairs, including Jeffrey Katzenberg, a major Democratic fundraiser and the only co-chair who is not an elected official.
As he left the White House on the gloomy Friday, a number of the members of Biden’s inner circle joined him en route, including counselor to the president, Steve Ricchetti, and senior advisor to the president, Mike Donilon.
Biden declined to mention former President Donald Trump by name in his remarks to the crowd. Instead, he lambasted “MAGA Republicans … trying to take us backwards.”
Attendees interviewed by POLITICO emphasized the energy in the room. Former Republican Rep. Jim Greenwood said the crowd gave Biden a standing ovation.
“I think everybody in the room was watching to see if he made a single gaffe,” he said. “He didn’t.”
Dick Harpootlian, a South Carolina state senator who bundled for Biden in 2020, said he thought most attendees seemed to believe that Trump would be the Republican nominee.
“He’s a motivating factor,” he said. “The two sort of high-profile people are him and DeSantis, and that’s Trump and Trump-lite.”
Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.
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