Bundlers see fundraising problems for Biden

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Joe Biden’s fourth-place finish in Iowa earlier this week is expected to put a significant dent in his fundraising efforts in the weeks to come. 

Interviews with prominent Democratic donors and fundraisers reveal a palpable nervousness and apprehension about throwing their support behind Biden’s weakened candidacy. 

“His fundraising was already suffering. It has not been great,” said one Democratic bundler who has contributed to the campaign but has not supported the former vice president wholeheartedly. “And he’ll have a tougher time raising money now that he needs it.” 

“It’s obvious he’s going to face major headwinds in the next two states,” the fundraiser added, referring to the New Hampshire primary and the caucuses in Nevada. 

A second major donor who has written checks to Biden but has not endorsed Biden outright said he was leaning toward the former vice president in the days before the Iowa caucuses but now has some doubts. 

“Why would I support him now?” the donor said. “I still believe he’s the best candidate to defeat Trump but he’s got a lot to prove. He’s running a weak campaign. People want to vote for someone, not against.”

Even before the Iowa results, one California fundraising event scheduled for Feb. 20 was pushed back to March 4, a day after more than a dozen contests are held on this cycle’s Super Tuesday. The event was pushed back without explanation, sources say, leaving some donors to wonder aloud if the Biden campaign couldn’t get enough attendees for the event.

Biden is also expected to host two events in New York on Feb. 13, according to a source familiar with the plans. Those events could help the former vice president fill his coffers before he heads into a pivotal point in the race where he will have to compete against former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is largely funding his own campaign. 

Bloomberg is sitting out the first four contests in the race, but he is looming over the other candidates with his massive advertising push. If Biden falters, there may be pressure for him to get out of the way of Bloomberg.

Several donors said they would consider donating to Bloomberg in the coming weeks if Biden’s campaign continues to struggle. Donors and fundraisers also say they would also consider backing Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Ind., mayor. 

These Democrats reflect the pull of centrists in the party who favor politicians such as Biden, Bloomberg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) over the race’s progressive candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Political observers say they expect more donors to turn away from Biden if he continues to slip.

“I think Biden is struggling because now the weak performance is starting to become real,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of public affairs and history at Princeton University, who added that Buttigieg and Bloomberg are “offering very real moderate alternatives.”

“If he is shaky on Super Tuesday, I imagine the money would dry up pretty quickly,” Zelizer added. 

Adam Parkhomenko, who founded the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary ahead of the former Democratic nominee’s 2016 run, agreed, saying that Biden now has to walk a tightrope with fundraisers. 

He noted that Biden has never been a big grassroots fundraiser.

“His challenge is even harder now,” Parkhomenko said. “It’s this balance of saying ‘Wait till Super Tuesday,’ while also being able to meet the demands and resources of getting to Super Tuesday.” 

With just a few days before the New Hampshire primary, Biden has sent out a string of fundraising emails asking supporters for help. 

“We’ll keep this brief. If we don’t hit our $600,000 debate fundraising goal by tomorrow night, we could enter the New Hampshire weekend without the resources we need to succeed,” the campaign said in one email sent Thursday. 

A second email Friday morning asked supporters to contribute $5 to the campaign. 

“Joe Biden is our best chance to make Trump a one-term president,” the email said. “He’s the only one defeating him in key battleground state polls that Democrats have to win in November. But first, we need to get through this primary—and we have MUCH less cash on hand than other candidates.” 

In recent days, Biden cancelled an ad buy of $119,000 in South Carolina, one of the early states where he has maintained a sizable lead over his competitors. 

At the same time, a pro-Biden super PAC announced plans this week to spend just under a million dollars worth of ads in New Hampshire in support of the former vice president. 

The super PAC might also have to throw in money to contend with Sanders, who is set to spend more than $5 million on television and digital ads in states including South Carolina, North Carolina, Colorado and Tennessee. 

A number of big money donors who are not yet locked down with Biden have also been on the receiving end of calls from the Buttigieg and Bloomberg campaigns. 

“I like Joe a lot but I want to find the right candidate who can win,” one fundraiser said. 

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Iowa caucuses Joe Biden Michael Bloomberg Pete Buttigieg
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