Nothing resonates in a populist era better than [checks notes] a bunch of wealthy elites propping up a 47-year veteran of the Beltway. To be fair, Joe Biden has stated publicly that he doesn’t want help from super-PACs to campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. However, Biden’s overall fundraising incompetence has Democratic institutional donors worried about whether Biden can make it to the finish line financially, CNN reports:
A coalition of top Democratic strategists and donors are intensifying conversations about setting up an outside group to bolster Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy, people familiar with the matter tell CNN, aiming to create a super PAC designed to fight back against a barrage of well-funded attacks from President Donald Trump’s campaign.
The idea of building an outside organization has been the subject of discussion for weeks by Biden allies, but the conversations intensified in the wake of a cash crunch for the former vice president’s campaign. He reported last week having less than $9 million in the bank, significantly less than his leading rivals.
The optics would look terrible, but Biden’s backers might not have much of a choice. His team has relied on big-ticket donors to the point where many of them can’t kick in any more cash directly to the campaign. In fact, as Politico reports this morning, Biden is the leading candidate for donations of $500 or more, and that’s the problem:
Biden has raised $20.7 million from contributions of at least $500 — $1.5 million more than his nearest competitor, despite entering the race later than all of them — thanks to the former vice president’s strong connections and goodwill among the traditional donors who have long financed the Democratic Party. Biden drew donations from 114 former big money fundraisers for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the third quarter, the most of any Democrat, according to a POLITICO analysis.
But it’s been nowhere near enough to make Biden the leader of the fundraising pack. In fact, his big-dollar dominance, and his reliance on those donors, is more evidence of how quickly small-dollar donations have become the most important component of political fundraising in a sprawling, fractured Democratic race. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are all outraising Biden, and stockpiling cash significantly faster than him, on the back of major support from online donors that Biden has been unable to build.
If Biden raised all that money, why does he have a cash-on-hand problem? His burn rate has been spectacular, according to an ABC News report last week. In the third quarter, Biden spent $2 million more than he raised (which was already $6 million less than he raised in the second quarter) for a burn rate of 112%. That’s a very odd development for a campaign that seems intent on limiting its candidate’s public exposure. Whatever the reason, Biden’s in a tough spot; he only has $9 million on hand for the stretch run to the primaries, while top-tier opponents Elizabeth Warren ($25.7 million) and Bernie Sanders ($33.7 million) have lots more resources — and lots more money coming in.
So Biden has two big problems — income and outflow. A super-PAC could solve those problems by allowing outsiders to manage the money and the message, but it doesn’t solve the problems created by the candidate himself. At least one of these major institutional donors told Politico that he may have thrown good money after bad:
The bundler contributions and connections are helping keep Biden’s campaign afloat, but some of those donors are cringing at the way Biden is running his campaign.
“I don’t think Joe Biden is going to be the nominee,” said one major fundraiser, who said he gave to Biden out of loyalty during the third quarter. “I think there’s a thirst for something down the road taking us towards something bigger and better. That’s not going to be Joe Biden, for whom I have the utmost respect. He is acting his age and showing his age.”
On top of all that, the act of forming the super-PAC all but confirms what two previous presidential campaigns have proven about Biden: he’s not a good candidate. Biden has never been good about raising funds and continually sticks his foot in his mouth. The latter quality has been increasingly on display, along with a growing sense that Biden’s time has long since passed. Add to that the obvious desperation to prop him up by the same establishment that tried to rig Hillary Clinton’s nomination four years ago and you have a monumental populist crisis about to hit the Democratic Party.
We might need a super-PAC just to pay for all the popcorn.