By Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden’s 2024 re-election team said on Friday that it and his Democratic Party raised $72 million during the first quarter since the campaign launched, lending firepower to his efforts to seek a second term.
Biden, who launched his campaign on April 25, had $77 million in cash on hand at the end of June across several affiliated fundraising entities and the Democratic Party.
Those funds give him the ability to push out advertisements in politically competitive swing states and start to build out a campaign team ahead of what could be more than a $1 billion campaign and the most expensive race in history.
The Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump, raised more than $35 million during the April-June period, a campaign official had said. Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis raised $20 million in the same period, his campaign said.
Biden has one key advantage that his Republican would-be opponents do not: the backing and fundraising muscle of his party. He is not expected to face a serious challenge for his party’s nomination and his allies run the Democratic National Committee’s operations. Republicans, meanwhile, are spending some of their campaign funds on their fight against each other.
The closely watched Biden fundraising numbers are viewed as a test of enthusiasm among both grassroots and wealthy donors for Biden, 80, who fought doubts about his age in deciding to seek another four-year term in 2024. Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election.
His figures compare with $105 million raised by then-President Trump and the Republican National Committee in the second quarter of 2019 as well as $86 million raised by President Barack Obama and the DNC in 2011.
Trump launched his campaign in June that year but had already started raising money, while Obama launched his campaign on April 4. That meant Obama had more time than Biden to raise money for the quarter, though there were lower caps on what donors were allowed to contribute under the law at the time.
The figures distributed by campaigns do not include the substantial spending done by outside super political action committees (super PACs) that also support the candidates.
The Biden campaign is required to submit more detailed financial records to the Federal Election Commission by Saturday.
“While Republicans are burning through resources in a divisive primary focused on who can take the most extreme MAGA positions, we are significantly outraising every single one of them – because our team’s strength is our grassroots supporters,” said Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Biden’s campaign manager, in a statement.
Chavez Rodriguez has been running a lean operation, with just a handful of aides, often working remotely, no ribbon-cutting a headquarters and no spate of operatives fanning out across the dozen or so most decisive states.
The campaign has been holding more fundraising events for the wealthy than political rallies for the public, with 38 such fundraisers as Biden traveled around the country to small group events with top contributors. The campaign named top fundraiser and former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg as a campaign co-chair in a sign of how important cash hauls would be to Biden’s effort.
Katzenberg said this is the first real test of the popularity and support for Biden. “He has raised more dollars, faster than any candidate ever.”
“It’s not just a vote of confidence, but a vote of support, when nearly 400,000 grassroots supporters write a check,” he told Reuters.
The decision to run lean could help the campaign weather a grueling 16-month campaign without exhausting its resources, leaving more to the crucial final months.
But the campaign could also miss early opportunities to build an organization, relationships and outreach in key states from Pennsylvania to Michigan and Georgia. Just 40% of Americans approve of Biden’s presidency, with the economy chief among their concerns, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed this week.
The campaign said the second-quarter donations came from 394,000 donors and that 30% were new contributors since the 2020 campaign.
When asked for a comment on Biden’s fundraising, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung criticized Biden’s record and said Trump enjoyed the support of “a wide range of Americans” but did not address the gap in their fundraising totals.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose in Washington, Additional reporting by Nathan Layne Editing by Alistair Bell)
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