U.S. President Joe Biden made his pitch for re-election on Friday night to a small group that may prove essential to his candidacy: the wealthy.
Biden, who launched his bid for the 2024 presidential election in a video posted online on Tuesday, gathered fewer than 200 of the top donors and volunteer fundraisers from his last bid for office at the five-star Salamander hotel in Washington.
They dined under blue stage lighting with rising political stars in the Democratic Party who have opted to support Biden, 80, rather than running against him, including Governors Gavin Newsom of California and Phil Murphy of New Jersey.
Biden may need to raise and spend more than $1 billion to run a competitive campaign in 2024, allies believe.
“We couldn’t have done it without you, and I think it sounds like you’re ready to do it again,” said Biden, who has used his presidential bully pulpit to call for higher taxes on the wealthy and increased corporate regulation.
“I’m here tonight to ask for your help to help me finish the job. Folks, here’s the bottom line: it’s very simple. We need you. Our democracy needs you because this is about our freedoms.”
Among those attending the event were former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who spent $300 million on his own presidential campaign in 2020 before shifting his millions in donations to Biden and other Democrats, and former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, the sole fundraiser among Biden’s initial, seven campaign co-chairs. A small group of reporters were allowed to observe a portion of the event before being ushered out.
Biden made no mention of Republican frontrunner and former President Donald Trump or any other potential Republican rivals in his remarks, even though Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis featured in his campaign launch video. A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Monday showed that a majority of registered voters do not want either Biden or Trump, 76, to run again.
Top volunteer fundraisers generally give money to a campaign themselves but are also expected to tap their networks of wealthy potential donors, host events that can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to attend and even meet certain fundraising targets set by the campaign.
That money complements millions in individual, small-dollar donations of as little as $1 that roll in through the campaign website and other sources.
The event on Friday capped a fairly low-key first week of campaign events for the Biden campaign, which has included a video to prospective volunteers and a television advertisement being run political battleground states.
Instead, Biden has mostly filled his days with traditional Oval Office duties, including hosting South Korean leader Yoon Suk Yeol for a state visit. On Saturday, Biden is due to deliver light-hearted remarks at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.