Obama helps raise $15 million in first campaign event for Biden's White House bid

Barack Obama and Joe Biden at the US Capitol in Washington, on Jan 21, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Former US President Barack Obama on Tuesday (June 23) made his first campaign appearance alongside Joe Biden since endorsing him for president in April, helping raise more than US$11 million (S$15.3 million) for his former No 2 as he exhorted supporters to meet the "urgency" of the moment.

"I appreciate all of you being on this call," Obama said at a virtual fundraiser. "But man, this is serious business. Whatever you've done so far is not enough."

The virtual fundraiser collected US$7.6 million from 175,000 grassroots contributors. Obama and Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, also hosted a private online portion for high-dollar donors, which was not open to reporters and brought in more than US$3.4 million.

The haul was the most for any Biden campaign event, coming on the heels of the Democratic Party and Biden's campaign out-raising Republican President Donald Trump in May for the first time.

Tuesday's fundraiser showed the drawing power of Obama, who remains overwhelmingly popular among the Democratic base and who will be counted on as a key campaign figure this autumn.

It also highlighted the dramatic changes the coronavirus pandemic has wrought on traditional campaigning, with the two politicians sharing a split screen from their living rooms, while supporters tuned in via livestream.

Early in the 2020 campaign, Biden's weak fundraising numbers compared with some of his Democratic competitors were a source of concern. But his fundraising from donors has picked up in recent weeks as his lead in national opinion polls grew and the country reacted to incidents of police brutality.

Trump, who has been campaigning for a second term since 2017, still has far more cash on hand ahead of the Nov 3 presidential election.

His campaign noted in a statement that it raised more than US$10 million last weekend, when the president appeared in Oklahoma for his first live campaign rally since the outbreak erupted.

"There is no enthusiasm for Joe Biden," said Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman.


Obama, who has only occasionally criticised Trump since leaving office in 2017, faulted his successor's behaviour several times on Tuesday, saying he "exploits" divisions among Americans and calling his approach to governing "mean-spirited".

"There is no disconnect between the urgency of this election and the political moment and what has been happening on the streets," said Obama, referring to the civil rights protests that have swept across major cities since George Floyd, a black man, died last month after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Obama also criticised Trump for ignoring advice from public health experts on how to handle the coronavirus and for giving cover to authoritarian governments by attacking the free press and advocating military force against protesters.

"There's a big contest, not just in this country but around the world, about who we are," Obama said.

Biden, who has an extensive foreign policy record both as a US senator and as vice president, said he would pick up the phone on his first day in office with a simple message to allies around the world: "America is back."

As the event ended, Obama said: "Love you, Joe." "Love you too, pal," Biden responded.

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