Obama donors not committing to Biden

Obama donors not committing to Biden
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Major donors to former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFormer NYT correspondent rips Democrats' 'selective use' of constitutional violations Obama portraits leaving National Portrait Gallery to tour museums across the country Tulsi Gabbard explains decision to sue Hillary Clinton: 'They can do it to anybody' MORE aren’t committing to Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE

While it is exceedingly early in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, top Obama donors are signaling that Biden cannot depend on their support.

Some say they might prefer a fresher face. 

“He’s got more than 40 years in Washington,” one Obama donor said of Biden. 


“He’s the opposite of what the party says it wants right now. He’s going to have a tough time if he runs.”

The Hill contacted more than 10 top donors to Obama for this story. 

None of them would commit to backing Biden, and many of them said they preferred to find a new voice to run against President Trump in 2020.

On the heels of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti defends Tulsi Gabbard's lawsuit against Hillary Clinton Trump to hold rally on eve of New Hampshire primary MORE’s stunning Election Day defeat, the donors say they are picking up on the party’s mood for a new direction and that they have to be practical about who they back financially. 

“[We've] gotta be realistic and strategic, not emotional,” said one top fundraiser to the Obama-Biden tickets in 2008 and 2012. Democrats can't support a candidate over obligation, the fundraiser added. 

“There are some who love Joe and have a lot of respect for him but want a whole new face for the party and want an aspirational voice,” acknowledged a second Obama-Biden donor, who would only speak on background in order to discuss reservations about Biden more candidly.

When donors talk about fresh, new faces, one name frequently mentioned is Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who many believe will play a significant role in the future of the Democratic Party. 

Harris lit up the donor circuit last month in the Hamptons, where she was feted by top fundraisers. The event signaled to many in the room that she would seek higher office and they continue to buzz about the prospects. Even some longtime Obama aides say she fits the bill as a face for the party’s future. 

“Kamala has come to embody what’s next for our party,” Ben LaBolt, the longtime Obama spokesman, told The Hill last month.

Harris has conservatives talking, too. Last week, talk show host Hugh Hewitt predicted Harris could be the party’s next nominee. 

This isn’t to say that Obama World is unifying around Harris at this early stage. 

Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior adviser and confidante, has been trying to convince former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to enter the race, according to a source familiar with their conversations. And others in the Obama orbit say they're intrigued by Patrick.

Progressives are still clutching to the hopes that Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris weighing Biden endorsement: report Biden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll Warren calls for Brazil to drop charges against Glenn Greenwald MORE (I-Vt.) will enter the race. But donors point to Sanders’s age — he’ll be 78 in 2020 — as a possible negative if he follows up his 2016 presidential bid with a second run. 

They also wonder if Warren, 68, will be able to appeal to party centrists. 

Age is an issue mentioned with Biden as well. The former vice president will be 77 during the next presidential race, said the first Obama donor source in noting that “campaigning is really exhausting.” 

Biden hasn’t said whether he intends to run for president again. But all signs indicate he’s considering it seriously. 

For starters, he has a book coming out next month, which some allies say will be a barometer for a presidential run. He has also been giving campaign-style speeches in New Hampshire and other states.

Several donors predicted it would be difficult for Biden to do well with major donors and low-dollar fundraising, the two major buckets candidates rely on to filler their coffers. 

A Biden spokesperson did not respond to request for comment.

The former vice president ran into fundraising walls in 2016 as he considered whether he would jump into the Democratic primary. As he took time to make his decision following his son's death, he realized that many of the staunch donors who had supported the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012 had already committed to Clinton. 

This time around, Biden may find himself in a similar situation.

“I hate to say it, because I love Joe, but some feel he’s yesterday’s news,” one donor said. 

“Elections are about the future not the past,” one Obama fundraiser put it when asked why he would likely not support Biden. 

But Robert Wolf, a major fundraiser for the Obama campaign who is close to Biden, said the former vice president is a strong potential candidate. “There isn't anyone who doesn't love Joe,” Wolf said. “And I think everyone would be excited if he decided to take the next step.”

One former Biden aide said Biden appeals to the fractured Democratic Party, bringing together progressives and centrists.

“Showing how to successfully lead is a model for the future,” the former aide insisted. “It's about having that vision. And if there’s one thing Joe Biden has in spades it's the energy and the steadfastness to get things done.”

A Morning Consult–Politico poll out in June showed that 74 percent of Democrats viewed Biden favorably. Warren followed in second place, at 51 percent.

Most donors and fundraisers interviewed for this story said they won’t begin to commit to candidates until the first quarter of 2019. And some acknowledged they could “tread water,” as one put it, until late 2019, when it will be difficult to avoid choosing sides. 

Until then, donors and fundraisers say they’ll be watching how the candidates set the stage in the coming months. 

“It’s all about how they get noticed,” one donor said. “Donors will be watching Biden and what the mood around him is like, but he’ll have his work cut out for him.”