By Ted Johnson
Former president Barack Obama’s first fundraiser for Joe Biden reaped a whopping $11 million for his former vice president’s campaign, as the two gathered for a virtual event that tried to instill a sense of urgency in defeating Donald Trump.
The campaign initially announced during the event that it raised $7.6 million from more than 175,000 donors, the most for any Biden event so far this cycle. But then Trump’s campaign boasted of raising more than that over the weekend, $10 million. Biden campaign’s campaign returned with an announcement that their final figure from the Obama event was even more, $11 million, a figure that also included $3.4 million from a smaller, high-dollar gathering.
With about 120,000 donors tuned into the streaming event, Obama tried to instill a sense of urgency into those watching, telling the crowd that they should not get complacent.
“Man, this is serious business,” Obama said. “Whatever you have done so far, it is not enough. And I hold myself and Michelle and my kids to the same standard.”
Obama has been somewhat measured in his criticism of his successor during the past three years, but his remarks about Trump on Tuesday gave a preview of the coming months.
Just yesterday, Trump said in an interview that Obama may have committed “treason,” only the latest line of attack that he’s used against his predecessor.
Obama, however, characterized Trump’s presidency as one that has defied American norms and values.
He said that when he took office, he and Biden faced an economic crisis, but “there was still a sense of a shared American idea that we could build on. And what we have seen over the last couple of years is a White House enabled by Republicans in Congress and a media structure that supports them, that has not just differed in terms of policy, but has gone at the very foundations of who we are and who we should be.”
Obama ran through a long list of examples, including that the Trump administration “suggests facts don’t matter, science doesn’t matter.” He also chided the administration for suggesting “that a deadly disease is fake news, and for being one that “sees the Justice Department as simply an extension and arm of the personal concerns of the president.” He also said that Trump’s team is one “that actively promotes division, and considers some people in this country more real as Americans than others.”
“That we haven’t seen out of the White House in a very long time,” he said.
Obama, though, said that there is a “great awakening” going on in the country, “particularly among younger people.” That was a reference to the widespread protests that followed the death of George Floyd, triggering a nationwide reckoning with race.
“Not only are they fed up with the shambolic, disorganized, mean-spirited approach to governance that we’ve seen over the last couple of years, but more than that are eager to take on some of the core challenges that have been facing this country for centuries,” Obama said.
Obama, though, warned that “there is a backlash that is fierce against change, against demographic change, against the sense of people feeling embattled and not kind of understanding in respect to what’s happening to African Americans or women or the LGBT community or others, just asking for a seat at the table.”
“This president, the current president, exploits those divisions, and is amplified. There’s a whole megaphone of conservative media that has ramped that up,” Obama said. “That is powerful, too. That is not inconsequential.”
He said that there was “nobody I trust more to be able to heal this country” than Biden.
“Joe’s been around for a while, and sometimes what happens is we take that for granted,” Obama said. “There’s a tendency to look for the new or shiny object. But for my money, one of the things that counts the most is, is somebody [who] whatever mistakes they’ve made, or whatever hardships they’ve gone through, have they shown, that they have been tested to have the kind of character that stands up, that is there when you need them. “
Obama was a bit more flippant as he attacked Trump for his handling of the coronavirus crisis. “Poor Dr. Fauci, who’s having to testify, and then see his advice flouted by the person he is working for.”
Biden said that he would build on what he and Obama did during their administration. That includes a public option for the Affordable Care Act, as Democrats hope that healthcare will be a central issue in the fall campaign.
In addition to raising $10 million over the weekend, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee also collected $14 million on June 14, for an online fund-raising push tied to the president’s birthday.
Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the Trump campaign, said in a statement, “There is no enthusiasm for Joe Biden. Even his guest of honor, Barack Obama, urged him not to run to avoid embarrassing himself. The fact that he touted this fundraising event so grandly, and then hid it from view, is just more proof that Joe Biden can’t withstand the scrutiny of the American people as he runs for president.”
Murtaugh was referring to reports that the Biden campaign for blocked the media from using video or audio feeds from the fundraising event. But Biden’s campaign also has let pool reporters cover his fundraisers; the Trump campaign has kept reporters out of just about all of his donor events.
The event ended with Obama telling Biden, “Love you Joe.” “Love you too, pal,” Biden answered.