Joe Biden’s Expected 2020 Bid Is Likely to Rely on Big Donors

Former vice president’s fundraising structure is less focused on small-donor contributions, which many declared candidates are chasing

Former Vice President Joe Biden will initially rely on a decades-old network of big donors if he enters the Democratic presidential primary contest as expected, in contrast to the small-donor base that many of his 2020 rivals are racing to build.

Mr. Biden’s campaigns in the 2008 and 1988 primaries netted a combined $18.5 million and were financed by big donors and public funds—which candidates in recent years have stopped using because of spending limits they trigger. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, fueled his insurgent 2016 presidential bid almost entirely with contributions of $200 or less, amassing $238 million in a little over a year.

.. There is little evidence that Mr. Biden, 76 years old, has worked to foster a base of small donors in the two years since he left office. He has expressed concern to Democratic fundraisers that he won’t be able to make a splash with early online donations the way Mr. Sanders and other candidates have.The political action committee that Mr. Biden started in May 2017 to help Democrats spent more than $550,000 in digital consultants, but that investment barely paid off, Federal Election Commission records show. The group, American Possibilities PAC, received $923,000 from donors giving $200 or less, out of the $2.6 million it raised.

.. The PAC had been paying Blue State Digital, a firm founded by Joe Rospars, the chief digital strategist for former President Obama’s two presidential campaigns and now an adviser to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Biden, who has spent much of the past few years giving paid speeches and promoting his book, said he wants to fund his presidential bid on his own terms—and has ruled out well-funded help from outside his potential campaign. Representatives for Mr. Biden didn’t respond to requests for comment.

I will not be part of a super PAC,” Mr. Biden said in a February appearance at the University of Delaware. “An awful lot of people have offered to help—and the people who are usually the biggest donors in the Democratic Party, and I might add some major Republican folks.”

Mr. Biden’s allies have been reaching out to their contacts in preparation for a campaign announcement, which could happen as early as Wednesday. Donors can give a maximum $2,800 per election.

Some of Mr. Biden’s longtime supporters are planning fundraisers for him soon after his likely campaign launch. Several donors said David L. Cohen, a Comcast Corp. senior executive vice president, is organizing a fundraiser that is expected to include former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and several top donors from the Obama and Clinton campaigns, planned in Philadelphia, where Mr. Biden has deep ties.

“The vast majority [of Obama donors] who I’ve talked to are with Biden—and have been waiting for him,” said Alan Kessler, a Philadelphia attorney and Democratic fundraiser who has committed to Mr. Biden.

Dick Harpootlian, a South Carolina state senator and longtime Democratic fundraiser, said he plans to contribute the maximum to Mr. Biden “the second he announces.”

He has a natural advantage with fundraising, but not a natural advantage in the digital universe,” said Mr. Harpootlian, adding Mr. Biden can use large checks like the one he will write to invest in a small-dollar online fundraising program.

Bob Clark, chairman and chief executive of Chicago-based construction company Clayco Inc., raised more than $500,000 for each of Mr. Obama’s two presidential campaigns. He said he has been talking with Mr. Biden and his team for months and is ready to begin fundraising for him.

Mr. Clark said he has heard enthusiasm for Mr. Biden from his fellow contributors. “He has a strong following with his own donors and with the Obama network,” he said.

The Obama donor network includes about 250 people who each raised $500,000 or more for his re-election bid. But those so-called bundlers, who aggregate donations and write lump-sum checks, aren’t acting in unison—some are writing checks to multiple candidates or have committed to other Democratic presidential contenders ahead of Mr. Biden’s announcement.

Orin Kramer, a New York investor and major bundler for Mr. Obama’s campaigns, is helping Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., as is Steve Elmendorf, a Washington, D.C., strategist and fundraiser who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, meanwhile, is being helped by Mark Gallogly, a New York-based investment manager, and Louis Susman, a Chicago-based investment banker and former U.S. ambassador to the U.K. California Sen. Kamala Harris has attended fundraisers in Florida led by two top bundlers with deep Obama and Clinton ties: Kirk Wagar, a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore, and Alexander Heckler, a Miami Beach attorney.

Small donors help candidates save time and can provide constant cash infusions, Democratic strategists say.

Mr. Rospars wrote on Twitter this month: “The high-dollar chase is less and less sustainable as the contest unfolds—the lowest-hanging fruit is already collected, and in a crowded field it will suck up more time and money and organizational focus for candidates to raise it.”

Mr. Sanders said he raised $600,000 in his first 24 hours as a candidate from supporters who agreed to have monthly contributions to him deducted automatically. He raised more than $18 million in his first six weeks as a candidate, FEC records show.

The Trumpist Gets Trumped

Bannon thinks he created Trump, and Trump thinks he created Bannon. They had a fundamental disagreement about who was using whom, and in any such conflict, the president of the United States is going to win.

.. The Trump statement on Bannon is — of course — exaggerated and overly harsh. It nonetheless nails important things about the former White House official. He was an inveterate leaker and poisonous infighter. Some of Bannon’s energy was devoted to trying to destroy Trump’s notably noncorrupt and nonkooky national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Most of it, though, was directed at Trump’s children and son-in-law.

.. Bannon also is a flagrant self-promoter. By any reasonable standard, it’s quite a comedown to go from working a few paces from the Oval Office to running a shoddy website devoid of true journalistic interest.

.. his fundraising just got much harder. Part of Bannon’s appeal to candidates was bringing the imprimatur of Trump, and that, too, has been dented.

.. At the beginning of 2016, it seemed that Steve Bannon could be a figure like Karl Rove or David Axelrod, a political strategist with outsize influence over policy who existed at the very top of our national politics for years. Instead, he’s been kicked to the curb more brutally than any presidential aide in modern history.

.. This, obviously, has much to do with Trump himself, who is volatile, jealous of media attention, and insistent that loyalty runs only one way, up to him.

.. He had no idea how to effect his dream of a protectionist, isolationist administration spending massively on infrastructure and raising taxes on the rich. His vision lacked support within the administration and in Washington more broadly.

.. Trump’s base is Trump’s. No one ever voted for Steve Bannon, and now he is on the wrong side of the president in whose name he has presumed to speak.

Here’s How Pence Could Pay for a Personal Lawyer in Special Counsel Russia Probe

A financial disclosure Mr. Pence released last year appeared to show a negative net worth, not counting his state pension. He reported no significant savings accounts, mutual funds or 401(k) accounts from before he entered elected office. As Indiana’s governor, he was paid $173,860 over the previous year, the disclosure showed.

Donald Trump’s Pick for Israel Envoy Helped Fund Settlers

“If those are the actual policies, then it would be hard to see how Trump as president could actually pursue his preference for peace,” Mr. Ross said. “It is not just that the Palestinians would see little reason to be responsive, but Arab states that are quietly cooperating with the Israelis in tangible ways would also find it difficult to play any role in peacemaking.”

.. The settlement was created with the support of the Israeli government, and has since grown to more than 1,000 families, or roughly 7,500 people, he said. The settlement’s location and ideology is considered hard-line among many Israelis and even some settlers.

.. Yet in its 40-year history, and with help from Bet El Institutions and American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva Center, the settlement has become one of the most influential in the U.S. in promoting its agenda and winning friends in the U.S, Israeli settlers say.

At a gala dinner earlier this month at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York, former U.S ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and current Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon were keynote speakers at the $500-a-ticket event to raise money for Beit El Institutions. Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who is a frequent visitor to settlements in the West Bank, was also a previous speaker at the event

Hillary Clinton Has a Lot of Money

She raised more than $140 million for her campaign and the Democratic Party in August—dwarfing President Obama’s haul four years ago.

.. Trump, who collected $82 million for his campaign and the GOP during a strong showing in July, has not released his numbers for August. Clinton has now raised more than $400 million during her presidential run.

.. What may be most significant about Clinton’s total, however, is not the $62 million she raised for her own campaign but the $81 million she took in for the Democratic National Committee and state parties.

Tensions Deepen Between Donald Trump and R.N.C.

The Republican National Committee had high hopes that Donald J. Trump would deliver a compassionate and measured speech about immigration on Wednesday, and prepared to lavish praise on the candidate on the party’s Twitter account.

.. The evening tore a painful new wound in Mr. Trump’s relationship with the Republican National Committee, imperiling his most important remaining political alliance.

Mr. Priebus and his organization have been steadfastly supportive of Mr. Trump, defending him in public and spending millions of dollars to aid him. But the collaboration between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Mr. Priebus’s committee has grown strained over the last month

.. There is no prospect of a full public breach between the Trump campaign and the R.N.C. because both sides rely on a joint fund-raising arrangement crucial to their election efforts.

.. Mr. Trump, who has struggled to raise money, is dependent on his party’s national committee to perform many of the basic functions of a presidential campaign.

.. Within Mr. Trump’s circle, there is impatience with what advisers view as a cautious and conventional party bureaucracy, ill-equipped to accommodate Mr. Trump’s improvisational style

.. power is so divided among strategists and members of the Trump family that the process of making even simple decisions is laborious and unpredictable.

.. Mr. Priebus, who has a warm relationship with Mr. Trump and speaks with him daily

.. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Priebus and his committee have been broadly deferential to Mr. Trump, declining to criticize many of his most provocative remarks and quickly designating him as the party’s presumptive nominee in May. For Mr. Trump, Mr. Priebus has appeared to be a patient and accommodating partner, eager to promote his campaign and willing to rebuke Republicans who have declined to support him.

.. In a tone that several witnesses described as imperious and aggressive, Mr. Kushner suggested that the national committee might not be giving Mr. Trump all the support he was due.

.. Ms. Walsh told Mr. Kushner that the committee had a responsibility to take a broad view of its finances, mapping out a budget for the entire party and ensuring it could remain operational for the rest of the year, and could not solely focus on Mr. Trump’s needs.

.. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who has become one of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers

.. “The R.N.C. is giving him a lot of support,” Mr. Giuliani said. “He doesn’t have the united Republican Party behind him in the way that a more establishment candidate would.”

 

Why “New Trump” Isn’t So New

“Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t say the right words or you say the wrong thing,” he said. “I have done that and I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.” If you were Megyn Kelly or Carly Fiorina, or Judge Gonzalo Curiel, or a member of the Khan family, would you have been satisfied with these weasel words? No, you wouldn’t.

.. Trump didn’t attack the Khans during “the heat of debate.” He belittled Ghazala Khan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, in a telephone interview with Maureen Dowd, the Times columnist, on the day after the Democratic Convention ended. Then Trump extended his comments to the dead soldier’s father, Khizr Khan, who had criticized him at the Convention, and, despite protests by other Republicans, he kept up his attacks for days.

This wasn’t a verbal slip or an instant response.

.. Instead of fessing up properly, Trump continued to blame the media for highlighting what he says.

.. He claimed, “They will take words of mine out of context and spend a week obsessing over every single syllable, and then pretend to discover some hidden meaning in what I said.” It wasn’t clear which of his many utterances Trump was referring to here. Presumably, it was ambiguous statements like this one: “We have a very hostile judge. Now, he is Hispanic, I believe. He is a very hostile judge to me. I said it loud and clear.” Or perhaps it was this opaque statement: “isis is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of isis.”

.. Among the many things it ignores, however, are these: 1) Trump has just brought in a wealthy former Goldman Sachs investment banker, Steve Bannon, to run his campaign. 2) The person Bannon’s replacing, Manafort, is a prominent Washington lobbyist whose lucrative arrangements with a pro-Russian party in Ukraine had turned into an embarrassing distraction.

.. 3) Before making the personnel changes, Trump met with one of the richest and most reclusive hedge-fund managers in the country, Robert Mercer, who has a long record of supporting ultra-conservative causes, including Breitbart, the controversial news site that Bannon runs.