Spoiler alert: It’s bad and it will get worse, too. However, let’s start with the good news, at least from Joe Biden’s perspective. After finally consolidating the non-Bernie Bros track in the Democratic presidential primary, Biden had a banner month at a task at which he normally underperforms. His fundraising last month brought in slightly more than half of all the money he had raised in the entire cycle prior to Super Tuesday.
Even the good news comes with heavy, foreboding caveats, however:
Joe Biden posted his biggest monthly haul of the campaign in March thanks to his sweeping primary victories, raising $46.7 million as donors consolidated around his candidacy after most of the other Democrats dropped out of the presidential race, new filings show.
As Biden shifts his focus to the general election, he faces a steep fundraising gap with President Trump, who has been raising money for his reelection campaign since 2017. Travel and social-gathering restrictions relating to the novel coronavirus pandemic have added new challenges for Biden, as he works to maintain his fundraising momentum as November nears.
These new dynamics were evident in Biden’s March fundraising records. The majority of the money he raised last month came in the first two weeks of March, coinciding with the primary wins that solidified his path to the Democratic presidential nomination. But his fundraising dipped as the campaign went fully virtual to comply with coronavirus social distancing requirements, according to new filings released Monday and figures provided by the campaign.
For that matter, so did the combined Donald Trump/RNC fundraising effort, too. The loss of millions of jobs will have a depressing impact on future fundraising numbers, a point to which we’ll return in a moment. For the month, though, Biden has achieved a kind of parity with the GOP, as did the DNC. That came with a big asterisk too, though:
But Biden and the DNC outraised Trump and the RNC in March. The DNC, buoyed by an $18 million transfer from billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s campaign that sparked a campaign finance complaint, brought in $32.7 million in March to the RNC’s $24 million. Trump’s campaign has yet to file its March financial report, but Republicans had previously said that Trump, the RNC and affiliated fundraising committees raised $63 million in March, less than the combined $79.4 million raised by Biden and the DNC.
Congratulations, but don’t expect this to last. Without Bloomberg’s cash-out, they would have fallen slightly behind the Trump/RNC machine, which has been cooking up a storm thus far. The combined GOP campaign raised well over $200 million in Q1, with March being their lightest month, no doubt because Trump gave up all of his personal efforts to raise cash in exchange for doing the daily COVID-19 briefings.
Besides, this parity only applies to the month of March. The New York Times reminded its readers that Trump got off to a big head start, and it’s going to be nearly impossible for Biden to even get into the same league. The scale of this challenge would be difficult even for a candidate with master-fundraiser skills. And that ain’t Uncle Joe:
Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Democratic Party could raise almost $1 million every single day between now and November, and he would still barely catch up to what President Trump and the Republican Party had in the bank at the start of April — let alone what Mr. Trump will have by Election Day.
New fund-raising figures released late Monday show the depth of the financial hole in which Mr. Biden finds himself at the start of the general election campaign: The presumptive Democratic nominee and his party are nearly $187 million behind the Republican National Committee and Mr. Trump, who has spent the last three years stockpiling his huge war chest.
The sheer size of Mr. Trump’s early advantage creates a unique set of financial and political pressures for Mr. Biden. He must find ways to both expand his appeal to small online contributors and attract huge seven- and eight-figure checks to the outside super PACs supporting him — all while sheltered in his Delaware home because of the coronavirus.
Bear in mind that Biden trailed throughout the primaries in fundraising — and as of the end of February, probably never made it into the top three. Obviously now that Biden has consolidated the field his opportunities will improve, but whether he can make full use of them is far from established. He famously bungled a debate pitch for texting donations at one point, and that was when Biden had access to actual public venues. Now that he’s limited to his basement for a while, Biden can’t even do the big-ticket donor events that were his bread and butter.
Plus, that presents another problem. Trump can have his surrogates raise funds for him because he’s busy handling a national crisis, and he has the bully pulpit of the White House front and center every day. Biden has nothing else to do, and no other platform than his basement office. And even that seems too much for Biden to handle at times, technologically speaking.
Presumably, Biden has shifted his fundraising by now from primary-campaign funds to general-election funds. How much of the former comprises his current cash on hand is not yet clear, but it’s seems fairly likely that Biden was raising funds almost entirely to fend off Bernie Sanders until after the middle of March, when it became clear that Biden was going to win the nomination. It’s very likely that Biden is starting from near-scratch on funds to go after Trump directly, while Trump has been raising mostly general-election funds, if not entirely so, for the past two years.
Almost any way one cuts it, Biden starts off deep in the hole and has no real ladder with which to climb out. His only hope is that Trump and the RNC get distracted by Nancy Pelosi and fights with governors and wastes some of that lead targeting Trump’s other betes noires. Otherwise, Biden’s in for a slow roast over the next six months.