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Biden targets donations to close cash gap with president

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Campaign: Donald Trump’s side says he is fighting for American people. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

Campaign: Donald Trump’s side says he is fighting for American people. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

REUTERS

Campaign: Donald Trump’s side says he is fighting for American people. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

Joe Biden is starting to get the help he needs to compete with President Donald Trump's massive election war chest, although the Democrat has a huge shortfall to make up in the coming months.

Former Barack Obama staffers are planning to raise money for the putative Democratic presidential nominee.

Ex-rivals like Elizabeth Warren are using their donor lists on his behalf, and the former vice-president's campaign could soon strike a deal with the Democratic National Committee that would allow it to rake in much larger donations.

Those are positive signs for a campaign that has worked furiously to figure out ways to bring in cash since the coronavirus pandemic put millions of Americans out of work and forced the 2020 White House race into a digital-only environment.

Even with the new-found support, Mr Biden remains at a significant financial disadvantage heading into the November 3 election against Mr Trump, a prodigious fundraiser who has been raising money for the general election since 2017.

"I think right now it's very hard to raise money," said John Morgan, a trial lawyer from Florida and a long-time political donor. "People don't know if they're financially ruined or not yet."

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee said this week they had raised $212m (€195m) this year, giving the president $240m in cash-in-hand.

Mr Biden's campaign has yet to announce its fundraising total for March. It had about $12m on hand as of February 29, before his decisive victories in Democratic nominating contests.

Mr Biden was not a fundraising juggernaut even before the coronavirus upended politics, finding real success only in the closing months of the Democratic presidential race.

His campaign is now hoping that endorsements this week from his one-time boss, Mr Obama, as well as former rivals Bernie Sanders and Ms Warren, will give its fundraising a shot in the arm, helping the campaign access a wider network of deep-pocketed donors.

Mr Biden told donors on Thursday the backing from his ex-competitors helped him bring in $5.25m over two days this week.

Mr Obama's former finance chair, Rufus Gifford, who helped his 2012 campaign collect more than $1bn, is setting up an online fundraising event on May 1 for Mr Biden, involving officials who worked for the former Democratic president.

"The goal will be to re-assemble the team that propelled the Obama/Biden team to victory twice," Mr Gifford wrote in a recruitment email seen by Reuters.

US Senator Kamala Harris, a former White House rival and a strong contender to be Mr Biden's vice-presidential pick, participated in an online fundraiser for Mr Biden last week that brought in $150,000 - exceeding the event's $100,000 target, said event co-host Kimberly Marteau Emerson, a principal at KME Consulting.

Mr Biden's campaign also plans to host a series of virtual events in the coming weeks featuring celebrities such as Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, singer Melissa Etheridge and tennis great Billie Jean King, as well as ex-candidate Cory Booker and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, said Tom Sacks-Wilner, who serves on Mr Biden's finance committee.

Mr Sanders, who amassed a huge grassroots army of supporters, has not committed to raising funds for Mr Biden.

Alan Kessler, a Philadelphia attorney who has held several events for Mr Biden, said the campaign was reluctant to ask people for money in the early stages of the pandemic, which has plunged the US economy into the sharpest downturn in decades. That is beginning to change, he said. "We're starting to be able to move on to the next phase, which is actually being able to comfortably reach out to people."

Mr Trump's handling of the government response to the crisis has helped fuel donations, said Mr Sacks-Wilner.

"It's been kind of a boon for the campaign because we have been able to raise as a result of what is seen to be lack of leadership," he said, noting that some independent donors were reaching out directly to him.

The Trump campaign said that support remained enthusiastic for the president.

"The people know that President Trump is fighting for them.

"So they are fighting for him as well," said Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Irish Independent