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Joseph R. Biden Jr. works with the top donors on the phones while at his Delaware home in the monastery. His digital team is looking for the right tone to ask small donors for cash during the worst economic downturn in their lives. And his finance department plans how the checks will come when catering parties for large contributors are put on hold indefinitely.
Top biden fundraisers and donors, as well as campaign, Super PAC and Democratic Party officials described urgent efforts to rethink the way they raise money during a pandemic and a global economic slowdown. In nearly two dozen interviews, they were increasingly concerned that the downturn could stifle the flow of small online donations as millions of people lose their jobs.
The corona virus shut down much of the American economy when the former vice president took control of the Democratic President’s race, his plans to consolidate support among party donors who had previously supported other candidates, and his ability to replenish his cash reserves to help them to compete, improve President Trump’s well-funded re-election campaign.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden face the same headwind. However, the president began March with a huge financial advantage over the Democrats: a total of around $ 225 million in cash between his re-election campaign, the Republican National Committee, and their joint committees. Mr. Biden and the National Democratic Committee had only $ 20 million after taking the debt into account.
Mr Biden’s campaign did not specify how much money he had been collecting since mid-March when the virus took its toll on the country, but several fundraisers said that giving was slowing and they were unwilling to make aggressive requests for cash In this fragile moment, the campaign is preparing for 100 percent virtual and digital operation.
These should be some of the busiest and exhilarating days for Mr. Biden and his donation team in normal times after knocking out all his rivals except Senator Bernie Sanders, who is followed by almost insurmountable 300 delegates. Instead, he has been hiding in Wilmington, Delaware and has so far limited himself to three video fundraisers from a makeshift studio installed in his home’s retrofitted hobby room.
“It is definitely more difficult to raise money now,” said Mathew Littman, a former Biden speech writer in California who organized a video fundraiser and recently launched a separate Super PAC to raise money to support Mr. Biden in western countries Collect states. “The fun aspect of the fundraiser will be removed.”
“You have to be very sensitive to what happens to people’s lives,” added Littman. “This is definitely a much softer playing field than two weeks ago, as the economy will either be in a recession or in a depression for a while.”
Some top fundraisers said the thought of scrolling through friends’ call lists to raise money for politics during an unprecedented economic and health crisis was deaf. Others are currently concentrating on other areas. They are investors whose portfolios have been hammered, business owners trying to search their inventory and looking after their employees, philanthropists with ties to cultural institutions at risk of collapse, or even health systems that rely on the full impact of the virus to adjust.
“They are not collecting donations now,” said Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania Democratic governor and Biden supporter, in an interview a week ago. “I haven’t called anyone for money in the past 10 days and I have no plans to do so.” Not as long as people are confined to their homes. I just don’t think that’s appropriate. People are also worried about money. “
Michèle Taylor, vice president of a pro-biden super PAC, Unite the Country, said the group is not currently proactively looking for new donors because “people don’t know what their economic future looks like”.
But money is still flowing. “We still have donors, our fundraisers are still going well because people understand the urgency,” she said when she got rid of Mr. Trump. “We don’t have to tell people that we need a change of leadership.”
Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor and chairman of the National Democratic Committee, began meeting with donors on behalf of Unite the Country before the coronavirus froze such activities in early March. After the primary ends, Mr. McAuliffe is expected to participate in the Biden campaign in some ways, according to Democrats who are familiar with the planning.
The Biden campaign took place in mid-March with an intimate group of some of the country’s most productive democratic leaders, including Jonathan Gray, president and chief operating officer of private equity firm Blackstone; Jane Hartley, a former ambassador to France; Blair Effron, founder of the investment company Centerview Partners; Roger Altman, founder of Evercore investment firm; and Mark Gallogly, founder of another investment company, Centerbridge Partners, according to people familiar with the call.
From home, Mr. Biden made some calls personally and addressed those who had originally supported other candidates, while thanking the early contributors and his most influential allies.
“In politics, we usually go back to the people who did the most,” said John Morgan, a Florida donor who hosted an event for Mr. Biden last year and spoke to him recently.
A person close to the Biden campaign said that preliminary talks are underway about how to plan a situation where personal fundraisers will not take place until the November general election, although this is not considered the most likely outcome.
The campaign’s financial operations are becoming more and more virtual. As part of the Biden campaign, a recent request from the National Finance Committee was made by Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s new campaign manager was introduced.
During the 2020 race, Mr. Biden’s money was relatively tight. When he entered March, he was just that sixth largest donor in the democratic field after running a relatively worn campaign during the primaries. Overall, he collected less money than Mr. Trump had in the bank in early March.
“The press kept saying,” Biden has no money, “said Biden at the last debate on March 15th.” And they were right. Biden had no money. “
But Mr. Biden was very successful with online donors after a win in South Carolina that helped him progress toward nomination. In the same debate, he said he had raised $ 33 million in the first 15 days of March – far more than in any previous full month.
Then came the corona virus, which cut all online donations to Democrats on ActBlue, the party’s main portal for online donations. The site processed an average of $ 7.2 million in donations a day in the first half of March. That number has dropped to an average of $ 3.7 million since March 16.
Mr. Biden continues to spend a lot of money on Facebook fundraising – a sign that, according to experienced digital activists, the donors are still responding and donating. Mr. Biden has invested more than $ 100,000 a day in Facebook since Super Tuesday, a level he had only reached in his first week as a candidate.
A number of top Biden contributors had hoped for a lively face-to-face meeting of the National Finance Committee in April and saw this as an opportunity to kick off the general election – but almost no one believes that such a meeting could now take place in person.
“If there are people waiting to contribute to an event, they have to get over it and go online and contribute,” said Howard Wolfson, a top strategist for former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York canceled and ran the presidential race in March $ 18 million to D.N.C.
Several donors said they had learned that Greg Schultz, who replaced Ms. O’Malley Dillon, who remains one of the best advisors in the Biden campaign, would be transferred to the National Democratic Committee, with a high-level role between the party and the Campaign is coordinated to people familiar with the matter.
The campaign, which refused to comment on this article, only publicly said that Mr. Schultz would focus on “organizational planning for the general election” and “external public relations”.
Mr. Biden does not yet have a donation agreement with the D.N.C. closed, which would allow him and the party to request much larger checks – for hundreds of thousands of dollars – compared to the current limit of $ 5,600.
The absence of such an agreement is one of the more concrete effects of Mr Sanders Decision to stay in the race hampers Mr. Biden’s and the party’s ability to close the donation gap with Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden will almost certainly not be able to officially complete the nomination until June if the Vermont Senator does not leave earlier.
The D.N.C. has announced that it will only offer matching agreements to all “good faith” candidates in 2020 after the Sanders campaign reverted to the 2016 agreement with Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Biden’s campaign had actually started months ago to experiment with video conferencing fundraisers after he was unable to attend an event in Baltimore due to a tractor-trailer accident.
Mr. Biden held his first scheduled dial-in event in November and another in December. The advantages are significant: it takes much less time – often only 30 minutes. There are no traditional hosting costs. And there is no time spent traveling from event to event.
“When used properly, you can still create a bond,” said Michael Kempner, PR manager and leading democratic fundraiser, who participated in two of Biden’s recent virtual fundraisers. “You can still create deep personal interactions that feel like you’re in the room.”
As the campaign adapts to the new reality, several pro-democratic external groups have teamed up to act as leading anti-Trump and pro-biden units in the coming months. On Monday, two of these groups, Unite the Country and American Bridge, announced a partnership.
There were intense discussions among strategists and donors about which democratic super PAC the charges should be brought into November. Priorities USA, which was the largest Pro Clinton Super PAC in 2016, had already set an advertising budget of $ 150 million prior to this summer’s Democratic National Convention, and the group announced a reservation for digital adverts on Friday $ 17 million.