Biden and Trump Are Frontrunners for 2024, and Rich Democratic Donors Are Thrilled

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

(Bloomberg) -- Major Democratic donors are thrilled that an elderly man who has been his party’s standard-bearer for years will likely reappear on the 2024 presidential ballot — and they’re talking about Republican Donald Trump.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Many of President Joe Biden’s biggest contributors are heartened by Trump’s emergence as the Republican frontrunner and are hoping for a 2020 rematch. Pitting the current president against his predecessor would create a race that they say advantages Biden politically, policy-wise and from a fundraising perspective.

Having Trump on the ticket will motivate the networks of wealthy contributors who can write big checks, according to several Biden donors, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Trump as the GOP nominee would also allow Biden to tap some financial support from conservatives who would otherwise be open to giving to a business-friendly Republican, one donor said.

Going up against his predecessor is also a motivating factor for Biden, who views stopping Trump as his patriotic duty. Trump’s emergence as the Republican frontrunner raises the stakes of the election — making it fundamentally about safeguarding US democracy — and rendering donations to Biden a no-brainer, according to another large contributor who said he had concerns about the president’s age and had previously hoped for a younger alternative.

Indeed, Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign video opens with images from the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol, where Trump’s supporters unsuccessfully tried to overturn the ex-president’s electoral loss.

“There is a general feeling now of ‘Everybody get behind President Biden. Everybody put their shoulder into it,’” venture capitalist and Biden donor Roger Ehrenberg said in an interview. “The people I’ve spoken to believe that Trump would be easier to beat than name-your-Republican-candidate.”

Still, Biden’s ability to excite the donor class of largely older, politically engaged civic and business leaders still needs to translate to convincing young voters, who polls show are less enthusiastic about him.

The president’s most fervent backers say his record — encompassing an infrastructure package, investments in semiconductor chips and a range of new renewable energy tax benefits — gives him a robust policy agenda on which to run.

“Today we’ve got a phenomenal candidate who has accomplished a lot and can run on the substance of his accomplishments,” said Biden campaign co—chair Jeffrey Katzenberg, who helped raise millions of dollars for him last cycle. “At some point he will have to run against somebody, but right now we are focused on all he has done for the American people.”

The enthusiasm about Biden going up against Trump stands in contrast to concerns that emerged in the immediate aftermath of his formal reelection launch last week that his initial fund-raising intake was sluggish.

Despite the slow start, he will have no trouble raising money, people familiar with the matter said. Those who grumbled about weak outreach to donors during the first two years of his presidency are planning to support him again. Even donors who privately voiced worries about Biden, 80, being the oldest person ever to run for president or raised concerns about Vice President Kamala Harris’s ability to lead in Biden’s absence still plan to back him.

That potentially gives Biden a big edge against Trump, 76, who has been rejected by major GOP donors, including billionaires Ken Griffin and Thomas Peterffy. Biden donors are also confident that the president could beat Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has not yet officially entered the race, but is the second highest polling candidate for the nomination.

Biden sought to make headway over the weekend at a series of events with donors, including a session Friday at the Democratic National Committee’s Washington headquarters.

“People look at you and say, ‘He or she is for that person, with this kind of intensity.’ It changes their minds,” Biden told donors and political leaders.

Earlier frustration about a lack of outreach since 2020 wasn’t apparent during Biden’s weekend meetings with donors, according to two attendees. An attendee at one event described the atmosphere as electric, particularly for a hard-to-excite crowd.

Another participant said that donors always complain they’re not getting enough special treatment and that such gripes are unlikely to harm Biden’s ability to court big donors this cycle.

The roughly 150 attendees at a dinner with Biden and Harris on Friday weren’t asked to commit to give a certain amount. Instead the campaign framed the 2024 election as a battle for democracy and against the rollback of certain freedoms, including access to abortion, one person said.

It’s unclear exactly how much the donor outreach has translated to contributions. The Biden campaign will release its first fundraising data in July, according to a campaign official.

Top Biden advisers, including former chief of staff Ron Klain and Steve Ricchetti, also briefed donors about Biden’s accomplishments, including low unemployment and the infrastructure-investment law. Those are some the same the policy wins the campaign is publicly touting in an ad released Monday.

--With assistance from Justin Sink and Bill Allison.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.