Former Vice President Joe Biden has a massive lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), so why the concern over money?
President Donald Trump and the GOP continue to swim in money. If Biden wants to compete, he needs the resources. The coronavirus is making it harder for Biden to raise those needed funds.
Rufus Gifford served as President Barack Obama’s finance director in the 2012 election. He knows a thing or two about fundraising, but he also knows that the coronavirus pushed publish health to the top of the priority list.
Gifford had to cancel Thursday’s fundraiser for Biden. He sold 75 tickets valued at $2,800 in Midtown Manhattan.
Gifford acknowledged the Democratic Party has “been at a financial disadvantage to [Donald] Trump since he was inaugurated,” and it will likely get harder as the pandemic drags on.
Vanity Fair continued (emphasis mine):
There are urgent life-and-death worries facing the country and the world right now, so political fundraising is barely on the list. But Biden will likely be running a general election campaign very soon, and the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic collapse could blow a hole in his efforts to mount a fair spending fight with Trump. The incumbent had raised, as of January 31, a whopping $218 million while the Democrats were battling one another in a primary, with the Biden campaign getting off to a particularly slow start. “Obviously, Donald Trump as president and his campaign in 2016 invested really, really heavily in their digital assets, building up this massive fundraising list, getting data on all of their supporters down to their home address and all of that good stuff,” a digital operative for a former Democratic contender says. “Biden’s team didn’t take digital as seriously as it could have at first. It was a very old-school operation over there.”
Biden’s campaign was basically broke as recently as Super Tuesday, but rebounded in February as the former vice president jumped into the lead for the nomination over Bernie Sanders. “We have a pretty robust digital operation, and it is making a lot of strides,” says Remi Yamamoto, the traveling national press secretary for the Biden campaign (“though I’m not traveling much these days!” she adds). “We’re ramping up content to engage and speak with voters directly, and we’ve had scheduled fundraisers transitioned to virtual fundraisers. Since the beginning of this month we have set a number of daily records, including our best day of online fundraising, and for March, already, we have exceeded our best fundraising month.” The haul since March 1 is more than $35 million, with the majority of the donations coming online.
However, one Democrat not identified by Vanity Fair, said it is unlike anything before with the presidential race taking the backseat in mid-March. The pandemic and the mess in the stock market are at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The Democrat said that “writing a check to Joe Biden is not a major priority.”
On the other hand, Gifford does not have any concerns about Biden’s campaign. He is worried about the Democratic National Committee:
“I think Biden’s campaign will end up being fine. The low-dollar fundraising will be there,” he says. “My big concern is Democratic National Committee fundraising and state party fundraising. Those are so reliant on major donor fundraising and on events. This is what I worry about. It’s not so much about canceling our event this Thursday. It’s that no one can be planning for April and May. That’s the bigger issue. It’s not just that holding some big DNC gala might prove impossible. That would be a problem, for sure. But Tom Perez, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and all these people going around doing small meetings? If that travel is not happening, and we’re relying exclusively on digital and call time—it would be…okay. But it’s a concern. People are going to want to give to their local food bank and hospital and EMT staff—as they should. So it’s harder to make the argument during this time to invest in a politician. The worst thing you can do right now is to be tone-deaf in the way you are approaching fundraising. Everyone needs to take a breath. But if we’re still having this conversation in June, that becomes a real concern.”
These high-dollar donations tend to happen in person. President Barack Obama’s former strategist Teddy Goff admitted the fundraising would have to take place “with either call time, or maybe Google Hangout or Zoom.” He also said those people might not want to give $2,000 since they cannot “shake the candidate’s hand.”
A Democratic strategist told Vogue that everyone is “freaking out” since the coronavirus forced campaigns to switch over “into digital-only operations seemingly overnight.”
It might affect Biden more than Sanders:
The first virtual campaign in history is off to a bit of a rocky start. While the substance of Biden’s speech on Tuesday night was praised for striking the right empathetic note (“We’ll get through this together,” he said of the coronavirus crisis), Anderson Cooper and political commentator/former Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod noted on CNN that the livestream lacked in production value. “If this is the way campaigning is going to be, they’ve got some work to do, just technologically,” Cooper said.
It wasn’t the Biden campaign’s first “is this thing on?” moment. Last Friday, technical difficulties abounded during a virtual town hall with Illinois voters. “Am I on camera?” Biden asked at one point. The Biden campaign tells Vogue that it will be “scaling up the production of digital content that will tell the Vice President’s story and that of his campaign online.”
Now that Tulsi Gabbard has officially dropped out, there’s only one other Democratic candidate facing the same changed circumstances. Sanders—who, despite trailing Biden, is more popular with younger, more internet-savvy voters—saw success with a recent fireside chat from his Vermont home, a pre-debate policy program, and a virtual concert/rally on Monday night; his campaign said the three digital events drew more than 5 million viewers combined. In a statement to The Hill, the Sanders campaign confidently said: “Our digital organizing infrastructure is unmatched.”
Goff thinks candidates should use Instagram Live for “five, ten minutes at a time. Just like, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re thinking. Here’s what we’re working on.” But he warned it should not take place in a crowded room. He also said that Biden and Sanders should own it if they are not familiar with the platform.
No matter what, the Democrats have a challenge ahead of them.DONATE
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