NBC: Donors Checking Out of Biden's Heartbreak Hotel

No problem! Just get George Clooney on the hotline to set up a glitzy, A-list celeb-filled donor event. Oh, wait 

Joe Biden may not want to discuss his debate debacle and cognitive unfitness for office any longer. In fact, neither he nor the White House have discussed it much at all, let alone honestly. That doesn’t mean that Democrat donors have nothing more to say about it, NBC reports, and four sources tell NBC that donors are putting their money where their mouths are:

“It’s already disastrous,” one of the sources close to Biden’s re-election said of fundraising.  

“The money has absolutely shut off,” another source close to the re-election said.

Two of the sources said this month is on a path to be down by possibly half — “or much more,” one of them said — from large donors alone. Sources emphasized that the donations were down across the board.

“Donors are negative. They had a call with the president. The call seemed so contrived to people; I don’t think they buy it,” one of the people close to the campaign said, referring to a recent national fundraising call between Biden and donors. “They called on people who were the most loyal, die-hard … There were no tough questions for the president.”

CNN hears the same about Team Biden’s finances. After an initial sympathy wave of donations from people who initially may have bought the “one bad night” excuse, the big-ticket donors have largely turned off the tap, at least until Biden can prove he’s up to the task now and in the future. Furthermore, Clooney’s declaration that Biden was non compos mentis even before the debate may keep the tap closed permanently:

“Everything is frozen because no one knows what’s going to happen. Everyone is in wait and see mode,” one Democratic strategist told CNN, noting that donors are hyper-focused on what Biden is doing, including interviews and his news conference Thursday. …

The Clooney op-ed, the strategist said, is “going to sting.”

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comments on MSNBC Wednesday morning also raised fresh doubts and ricocheted among donors. Pelosi told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “it’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run. We’re all encouraging him to make that decision because time is running short.”

“Major donations have slowed remarkably since the debate,” a Democratic fundraiser told CNN, adding that small dollar donations are proceeding at pace, but noted the campaign is too vast to live on small donations alone.

Maybe this would be a good time to bring back the Presidential Debate Fund, eh? I kid, I kid …

Team Biden and/or the White House also made it clear how much Clooney’s broadside in the New York Times hurt their standing. They trotted out one of the worst ripostes in political history, telling CNN that — are you sitting down? — Joe Biden has more stamina than George Clooney. Jake Tapper couldn’t quite keep a straight face:

Ahem. Did anyone sit down and think before green-lighting that spin? George Clooney’s dad has more stamina than Joe Biden. George Clooney is a famously popular sex symbol to millions, while Joe is a sex symbol to Joe, in Joe’s less-lucid moments. That spin is so absurd that they should fire the person who came up with it twice, just to be sure it sticks.

The question will be what the donors can do about Joe’s decision to remain in the race, and how long they’ll stay on the sidelines if he won’t leave. The Biden campaign sits on $240 million cash-on-hand as of the end of June, and as Bloomberg noted a couple of days ago, Biden might feel that he can run out the rest of the campaign on small donors and a new anti-elite message:

But what’s clear to these ultra-rich bankers and investors is that there’s no obvious path to making the change happen themselves. Some also see sitting on the sidelines as a savvy option, wanting to avoid fueling a narrative that financiers are pushing Biden out.

Money usually talks — but, perhaps, not in this case. Biden’s political operation has some $240 million on hand, and efforts from those like Mike Novogratz to drum up funds for a yet-to-be-determined alternative have thus far fallen far short of that kind of figure. 

It’s a little more complicated than even that. The donors don’t have an alternative yet — clearly none of them see Kamala Harris as a realistic nominee — which means they’ll end up spending cash on various competitors in an open convention if Biden withdraws. Then they will have to pony up a lot of money just to get a new campaign on its feet for the eventual nominee, let alone on the air and the hustings. 

From the donor perspective, the ROI looks far better on key House and Senate seats, even in the landslide loss that Biden seems to be courting at the moment. Unless Biden bounces back in some manner that makes it clear that Biden has had no cognitive decline at all, donors have likely checked out for good from Biden’s Heartbreak Hotel.

Maybe Biden should call Meryl Streep instead?

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