Apr 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden to hold first road fundraisers of presidency

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Joe Biden is about to start raising money on the road for the first time in his presidency, headlining fundraisers on Thursday in Portland, Ore., and Seattle for the Democratic National Committee, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: The pandemic has severely constricted Biden’s in-person ability to raise money, thank donors and motivate them to give more. Vaccinations, declining rates of severe illness and relaxations on gatherings make the turn possible. Rising inflation and tanking poll numbers make it necessary.

The big picture: This week's events will give select Democratic donors their first opportunity to see Biden outside of Washington.

  • Last month, he attended his first in-person fundraiser in Washington since becoming president. But there are hundreds of big- and small-dollar donors that are eager to interact with the president in person.
  • In pairing traditional White House travel with old-fashioned fundraising, Biden is finally able to do what his predecessors took for granted: Using Air Force One to put his party in a better position in the midterm elections.
  • Historically, reporters are allowed to listen to the president's opening remarks but then are ushered out of the room for the traditional question-and answer session.

Details: The fundraising events this week will support the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, a joint fundraising account benefitting the DNC and all 50 state Democratic parties. Biden is traveling out west to promote the bipartisan infrastructure bill that he signed into law last year.

  • A White House spokesman declined to comment.

How we got here: As a candidate, Biden promised to defeat COVID-19 and return America to some sense of normalcy. The persistence of the virus has complicated his task and been a consistent drag on his approval rating.

  • After the pandemic hit, Biden ceased in-person fundraisers and switched to Zoom events, offering donors a pixelated picture from a “virtual photo line."
  • Along the way, he became the first presidential candidate to raise more than $1 billion.

Between the lines: Biden is a tactile politician and has missed the regular contact with voters — and donors — that were a mainstay of his 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president.

  • He's used his limited trips out of town to connect with lawmakers and escape the bubble, but the realities of COVID protocols have restricted the number and kind of interactions he has. It's also denied him the opportunity to do donor maintenance.
  • Last December, at a DNC holiday party, he expressed regret that he wasn’t able to open up the White House to his most ardent supporters. “It’s a genuine regret we haven’t had a chance to personally thank so many of you who broke your neck for us — broke your neck for us when things didn’t look good at all,” he said.

By the numbers: The DNC brought in more than $172 million from January 2021 through February of this year, Axios' Lachlan Markay found. But tens of millions came via transfers from a Biden campaign joint fundraising account, which ended 2020 with nearly $45 million in the bank, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

  • The Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund raised another $14.5 million in that time and passed along most of it to the state and national parties.
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