Dizzying amounts of money pour into the Biden and Trump campaigns for US presidency

Record amounts arrived for both campaigns. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Former US vice-president Joe Biden and US President Donald Trump combined with the Democratic and Republican parties to raise well over a quarter-billion dollars in June, setting new high-water marks for both men in 2020 and obliterating June fund-raising records from previous presidential cycles.

Mr Biden and Mr Trump each raised more last month than what Mr Trump and Mrs Hillary Clinton combined to collect in June 2016 - a sign of the dizzying costs of a 2020 campaign that is already saturating the airwaves and screens in the most crucial battleground states.

For the second consecutive month, Mr Biden's haul of US$141 million (S$196.67 million) was bigger than Mr Trump's US$131 million, a striking reversal after Mr Biden had financially limped and skimped through much of 2019 and early 2020.

Mr Biden had raised less than US$9 million in a month as recently as January. But the former vice-president's upward trajectory has been dizzying ever since he became the presumptive Democratic nominee this spring: He raised just over US$60 million with the Democratic National Committee in April, US$80.8 million in May and then US$141 million in June.

"These numbers are pretty astonishing," said Ms Catherine Gabel, a Democratic digital strategist who specialises in online fund raising.

If Mr Biden's newfound gusher of money was the biggest storyline of the latest fund-raising figures, the resilience of Mr Trump's donors despite a tumultuous month of bad headlines and even worse polling indicated that both sides are likely to be awash in money all the way through the November election.

Record amounts arrived for both campaigns despite the continuing economic suffering brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

"What is happening for both parties is each side recognises all the chips are in the middle of the table," said Mr Jeff Roe, a top Republican strategist who served as campaign manager for Senator Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential bid. "This is not a small-ball election with little things being debated at the edges."

Mr Roe added: "Even if you've lost your job, that's worth US$38 to put your finger on the scale and try to decide the future of the country. You don't have to wait until November. You can impact it now."

Top Democratic donors, fund raisers and strategists said the biggest difference for Mr Biden was that he is now running against only Mr Trump, instead of his fellow Democrats, and is able to draw support from the full diverse spectrum of the party.

Many donors, big and small, are unnerved and fearful of Mr Trump's reelection chances, even as Mr Biden has widened a sizeable polling advantage, leading by 14 percentage points nationally in a recent New York Times/Siena College poll.

"I think Democrats have been wrong about enough elections at this point that there is nothing that's going to alleviate the concerns," said Mr Tom Steyer, a billionaire and top Democratic donor who ran for president this year and was a co-host of a recent fund raiser for Mr Biden. "There's no choice but to run through the tape."

Mr Trump still maintains an enviable war chest that stands at US$295 million. The Biden campaign has declined to disclose a full accounting of its cash on hand, but past spending patterns suggest the former vice-president has sharply cut into Mr Trump's lead even as he remains significantly behind the president.

"It's increasingly clear that we're going to be highly competitive with our resources against Trump," Ms Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, Mr Biden's campaign manager, said in a recent interview before the latest figures were released. "But the more important thing is how you're using those resources, and using them well."

For a Biden campaign that entered April US$187 million behind Mr Trump and the Republican National Committee, the possibility of attaining financial parity, or even just approaching it, is a notable transformation.

"We won't lose because of money - I'm absolutely sure," said Mr Ed Rendell, a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania who co-hosted a fundraiser for Mr Biden last month. "Four months ago, I was worried."

Neither the Biden nor the Trump campaign broke down how much of the money came from large contributors versus online grassroots giving (a full report is required later in July), although both campaigns emphasised that they were relying heavily on small-dollar donations.

Mr Trump held only two in-person fundraisers in June; Mr Biden held zero in-person fund raisers but averaged more than one big-dollar virtual fund raiser every other day.

Mr Biden's June virtual fund-raising calendar was punctuated by major events headlined by former president Barack Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Kamala Harris of California.

But he was also hosted by leading Wall Street figures, including Mr Hamilton James, the executive vice-chairman of the Blackstone Group, and Hollywood titans like Jeffrey Katzenberg, the film producer.

Helping pad Mr Biden's recent hauls has been the fact that, as the presumptive nominee, he can raise money in tandem with the Democratic National Committee, swelling the size of checks he can accept from US$2,800 during the primary to more than US$620,000 now.

Mr Trump has been raising such US$500,000-plus checks for months, including some at a small dinner in June that raised US$10 million.

In fact, Mr Biden's June fundraising haul was so large that, as the end of the month neared, a signal was received by some donors to hold their checks until July, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The sums that both campaigns took in last month were enormous historically. Mrs Clinton did not raise US$140 million until two months deeper in the cycle, in August 2016. That year, Mr Trump never raised as much in a month as he did in June 2020. And the totals for both campaigns this June were greater than what President Barack Obama and Mr Mitt Romney posted in June 2012.

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