Will coronavirus crisis give Biden the upper hand in November?
PredictIt CEO John Phillips discusses his website, which is a ‘prediction market,’ and the presidential election.
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Joe Biden raked in about $33 million in the first half of March as he barreled toward the Democratic presidential nomination. Then the nation largely shut down due to the spread of the coronavirus, and his fundraising rate slowed by half.
The former vice president raised $46.7 million over the full month, newly filed Federal Election Commission reports show. It was the best fundraising month of Mr. Biden's campaign, but he still faces a cash disadvantage compared with President Trump's financial juggernaut.
Combined, Mr. Trump's re-election team, which includes the Republican National Committee and affiliated fundraising committees, raised $63 million in March and had $244 million in the bank as of the beginning of this month. Mr. Biden and the Democratic National Committee collectively had about $57 million in cash on hand, after accounting for the DNC's $5 million in debts.
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More than half of the DNC's $32.7 million March haul came from an $18 million transfer from the campaign of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The March FEC reports give a finance-focused snapshot of how political campaigns are operating amid a national emergency that has suspended much of American life. As many states urged residents to stay home beginning in mid-March, Messrs. Biden and Trump, like most politicians, stopped in-person fundraising events. At the same time, many people who give smaller amounts online likely grew worried about losing their jobs.
Despite the second-half slowdown, Mr. Biden was buoyed by his rapid climb toward the Democratic nomination in early March. He racked up wins in a series of states that voted on March 3, known as Super Tuesday, and had amassed a sizable delegate lead by midmonth, when states began delaying primaries due to the virus.
After stay-at-home orders took hold across large swaths of the country, the Biden campaign invested in expanding its remote outreach capabilities as politics shifted online and on television. The campaign has held nine "virtual" fundraisers via the Zoom platform, which enables him to appear by video in larger donors' homes. Many of them were held in April and weren't reflected in the latest FEC filing. His campaign spent $461.67 on Zoom last month, the report shows.
The campaign spent more than $2.5 million on direct mail, nearly triple what it spent in February. It also put nearly $240,000 into audiovisual services, an increase from the month before, and paid $283,000 to Upland Software Inc., a company specializing in cloud-based collaboration software for businesses.
"We're going to keep innovating and experimenting with new ways of communicating to grow our community of supporters online," Mr. Biden said during a virtual fundraiser this month. "Now, it's a different way of campaigning, we've never had to do it before."
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William Singer, a Chicago attorney who is helping to raise money for a virtual Biden fundraiser on April 27 hosted by former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, said he expects to meet his goal of securing 36 donors, each giving $2,800 to join the Zoom gathering.
"I have never had a more enthusiastic response to any fundraiser for any candidate at any time," he said. "I think people realize this is not a time to think of personal benefits, like getting a picture, or a handshake, or a hug. They just want a way to participate."
Mr. Biden has been getting fundraising help from his former primary rivals.
About 52 people attended an April 8 Zoom fundraiser featuring California Sen. Kamala Harris. Co-hosts John Emerson, former U.S. ambassador to Germany, and Kimberly Marteau Emerson, a consultant, said the event raised more than $150,000, meaning each donor was contributing about the maximum legal amount for the election.
During a virtual fundraiser last week, Mr. Biden said his campaign had raised more than $5 million in the two previous days, which he attributed partly to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another former rival for the 2020 nomination, sending a plea on his behalf to her donor list.
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While Mr. Trump hasn't appeared at any virtual fundraisers, his top campaign surrogates have been live streaming nearly every night. During those events, the campaign asks viewers to text with their information, and follow-up messages lead to online fundraising requests.
The campaign also continues to pour millions each month into Facebook, Google and other online advertising geared toward raising money.
The campaign-finance reports filed Monday captured the final stages of the Democratic primary as Mr. Biden gained steam and his rivals faded.
Mr. Bloomberg tried an unusual strategy of staking his candidacy on a strong showing in the Super Tuesday states, after skipping the earlier contests. It didn't pay off. The new filings show he spent more than $1 billion total, including $176 million in March, on what was the most expensive self-financed political campaign in history.
Sen. Warren raised about $5 million in March and finished the month with $4.5 million in cash and about $1.3 million in debt. She ended her bid shortly after Super Tuesday.
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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was the last person to leave the race. He raised almost $33 million in March before stopping his campaign activities, including fundraising, midway through the month. He officially ended his campaign and endorsed Mr. Biden earlier this month.
With the nomination in hand, Democratic super PACs are lining up to help Mr. Biden. His campaign recently praised Priorities USA, which was founded in 2011 to help then-President Obama's re-election effort. That group raised about $4 million in March and had $21 million in the bank as the month ended.
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Another pro-Biden super PAC, Unite the Country, raised more than $10 million in March, thanks to a $3 million donation from hedge fund co-founder James Simons and $2 million from Maryland hotelier Stewart Bainum.
Mr. Trump also benefits from outside groups. The one his campaign has openly embraced, America First Action, raised $9.4 million through the first quarter of the year and had $25.4 million on hand to start this month.
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