Democrats on alert as Trump beats Biden’s April fundraising

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Democrats are mostly brushing off concerns about former President Trump outraising President Biden last month, despite their messaging for months that Biden’s fundraising edge is a major leg up for the president.

But other contingents of the party are also expressing words of caution on a race that’s much closer than they think it ought to be, given what money Biden has on hand coupled with a sophisticated campaign operation.

“In campaigns, there are three parts to keep up with regarding money. First is how much you raise, second is what you spend it on, and third is the timing of the money in and out. I’m confident the Biden campaign and allies are doing all three well,” said Ivan Zapien, a former official at the Democratic National Committee.

“Does it concern folks? Maybe, but we should be worried about everything and work as though we are losing ‘till the day after the election,” he added.

Biden allies are chalking Trump’s April fundraising numbers up to a single month’s results, stemming from one major donor event in Palm Beach, Fla., that Trump held, though others have been held since, which will show up on future reports.

Biden falling behind on fundraising for the first time in 2024 could spell trouble in the months ahead if Biden doesn’t make further gains in that arena — even as his schedule fills with campaign receptions in some of the most tony blue areas of the country.

The Biden campaign took its own opportunity to address Trump’s April numbers to make its case in one of its own fundraising pleas.

“In a race that will come down to as slim of a margin as this one, so much hinges on us investing in getting our message out and getting folks to the polls. We can’t let Trump gain the upper hand,” a recent Biden fundraising email read.

Biden’s campaign raised $51 million in April, which falls short of the $76 million Trump raised last month. But Biden still tops Trump when it comes to cash on hand, entering June with $192 million total, and campaign officials point to that as a major advantage over the former president.

Others also point to Trump’s spending, which notably includes his enormous legal bills as he fights both civil and criminal cases. He spent about $4 million on legal fees in March and has spent $66 million in legal fees since early last year, according to Fox Business.

“Context matters — beyond the dollars raised, it’s far more important to focus on how much candidates have on hand and where and how they spend,” said Scott Mulhauser, former senior aide to then-Vice President Biden.

“President Biden not only has a huge cash on hand advantage, the money he’s spent is primarily going to the nuts and bolts of campaigning — opening field offices, hiring staff and running ads — while the bulk of former President Trump’s campaign dollars continue to get flushed down the campaign drain to defend all his legal cases,” added Mulhauser, a partner at Bully Pulpit International.

Biden brought in a $90 million haul in March, during which he campaigned in every battleground state, held a major New York City fundraiser alongside former Presidents Obama and Clinton, gave his State of the Union address and swept Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday.

Biden and his campaign, as a result, mocked Trump over his lackluster fundraising in previous months, using their fundraising leg up as talking points against the former president. That advantage was strong going into the new year, when the president outraised Trump in the last quarter of 2023, $33 million to $19 million.

Then, in April, Trump had a major fundraiser with top donors in Mar-a-Lago, which raked in $50 million alone for the former president’s campaign — but some Democrats wonder how many more of those are to come.

“Trump’s recent high-profile, big-dollar fundraising events certainly helped, but they are unlikely sustainable,” said Biden ally and former Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.)

“The basis for fundraising between the two is stark. Trump raises money on pretend grievance, while Biden raises money on leadership and accomplishment,” added Carney, a senior policy adviser at Nossaman LLP.

Trump topped Biden in April money-wise while he was also maintaining his polling lead in battleground states. A Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday found Trump leading Biden by 4 points across the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Biden campaign often argues that their other advantages over Trump include a larger staff, more volunteers on the ground and an overall better campaign infrastructure. Meanwhile, Trump has been stuck in a New York courtroom and only able to campaign when he’s off on Wednesdays or on the weekend.

To some, those various advantages for Biden make his lagging polling numbers worrisome.

“From the publicly available information and data that currently exists today, it’s obviously concerning that this race is essentially tied given how much the Biden side has spent since last summer on advertising, staff, and infrastructure,” said Michael LaRosa, first lady Jill Biden’s traveling press secretary during the 2020 campaign.

LaRosa, however, argued that the campaign, under the leadership of Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon, who was campaign manager in the 2020 race, will turn around in a few months.

“Jen’s brain, campaign savvy, and her organizational and operational skill is a big reason why our campaign pulled it out in a handful of states. She’s incredibly talented at seeing around corners. It will be a few months before we see how the money and infrastructure advantage Biden has translates into support on the ground,” he said.

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