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Biden raises $25 million in ‘historic’ fundraiser with Obama, Clinton

In a show of force his campaign is calling the “most successful political fundraiser in American history,” President Biden raised more than $25 million during a New York event Thursday featuring former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

More than 5,000 people attended the sold-out event at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Biden’s campaign said, with guests paying anywhere from $225 to $500,000. The massive haul comes as Biden and his allies have sought to present their growing financial advantage in the race against former president Donald Trump as a broader sign of strength and momentum.

The highest-paying donors at the event had access to perks such as a photo with the three presidents. Legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz was on tap to take portraits of donors with Biden, Clinton and Obama.

The three presidents were greeted with a standing ovation and Clinton and Obama turned toward Biden to shower him with praise before they sat down.

“By the way, Dark Brandon is real,” Biden said at the end of the program, which was marked by the three men donning dark aviator glasses in a nod to the Biden alter-ego that has become a meme.

While campaign aides did not say how they determined the $25 million haul was the largest fundraiser in history, Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, a campaign co-chair, described the event as “a true reflection of the momentum” behind Biden’s reelection bid.

“This historic raise is a show of strong enthusiasm for President Biden and Vice President Harris and a testament to the unprecedented fundraising machine we’ve built,” he said in a statement. “Unlike our opponent, every dollar we’re raising is going to reach the voters who will decide this election — communicating the president’s historic record, his vision for the future and laying plain the stakes of this election.” That was a shot at Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee whose fundraising is going in part to defray his legal expenses.

The event caps a stepped-up stretch of campaign activity for Biden in the wake of his fiery March 7 State of the Union address, and it is the latest push by the president’s allies to counter concerns about his advanced age and sagging approval ratings. Biden is 81 and Trump is 77.

If Democratic voters at large are wary of Biden’s political standing, the star-studded event in New York offered a joyous counterpoint to the sense of angst. It featured musical guests including Queen Latifah, Lizzo and Ben Platt. Mindy Kaling served as host, at one point joking that it was nice to be in a room “with so many rich people.” An after-party for 500 VIP guests was co-hosted by first lady Jill Biden and DJ D-Nice.

For the evening’s main event, comedian Stephen Colbert moderated a conversation between Biden, Obama and Clinton. The program was not without controversy — after the three presidents took the stage, pro-Palestinian protesters began shouting and disrupting the event before being ushered out. A large crowd of demonstrators also gathered outside the venue to express their displeasure with Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza, some of them clashing with police.

The Biden campaign has begun relying more on Obama to boost its fundraising in recent months, after the former president came to the White House last year to express concerns about the state of the race. In a private lunch with Biden, Obama urged Biden to bolster his campaign apparatus and move more aggressively to block Trump’s planned march to the White House.

Biden officials said fundraising efforts that feature Obama or his signature have already generated $15.4 million for Democrats. Obama participated in a “Meet the Presidents” fundraising drive in December that brought in nearly $3 million, they said.

Biden has also used Obama as a sounding board, as both men see blocking Trump’s return to the White House as key to securing their own political legacies.

“Given the stakes of this election, President Obama will do all he can to support President Biden’s reelection,” Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to Obama, said in a statement, adding that the former president will also help down-ballot Democrats this year. “Our strategy will be based on driving impact, especially where and when his voice can help move the needle.”

While some Trump aides have acknowledged a need to close the fundraising gap — Trump’s campaign raised $20 million in February, compared to $53 million for Biden — they dismissed the Biden-Obama-Clinton event as a gathering of establishment politicians with shoddy records.

“The three people who has been responsible for death, destruction, and misery across the globe,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung posted on X in response to Biden’s post about the event.

Trump himself has indirectly played down the money gap, accusing Biden without evidence of targeting him for political reasons, including in court cases that have strained his finances. Trump said earlier this week that Democrats were determined to use the legal system to “try to take as much of his money as possible.”

Trump has often boasted of winning the presidential election in 2016 despite being outspent heavily by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and he has pointed to polls showing him leading Biden in key battleground races and nationally. While Biden has appeared to gain ground in some recent surveys, Trump’s consistently strong polling position has been a constant source of Democratic anxiety.

Still, Trump moved to overhaul leadership at the Republican National Committee recently as his campaign trailed Biden on the money front.

The Biden campaign last week reported $71 million cash on hand as of the end of February, more than twice the $33.5 million reported by Trump’s campaign. Trump has spent tens of millions of dollars on his legal troubles, which include criminal indictments and civil trials.

Biden’s aides have sought to highlight that contrast as evidence that their campaign is rolling while Trump’s is foundering. The Biden team has announced plans to open more than 100 offices this month and has launched a $30 million spring advertising campaign in key states.

The $25 million event in New York could further bolster Biden’s ability to sell his message to voters. In addition to the 5,000 attendees, thousands of donors watched the program online.

Tyler Pager contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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