Joe Biden is redefining presidential campaign frugality

Jul 17, 2023

They weren’t kidding.

Biden’s campaign spent a total of $1.1 million in the second quarter of this year, a remarkably small amount that would put him behind several Democratic Senate candidates in terms of expenditures.

Biden had four people on his payroll during that time: Campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez, principal deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks, spokesperson Kevin Munoz, and general counsel Maury Riggan. His campaign spent less than $1,500 on travel, accommodations and airfare. On rent, he spent nothing. He has not opened a campaign headquarters yet and much of his staff has been working out of the Democratic National Committee’s building.

It’s a vastly different approach than his old boss, former President Barack Obama, took in 2011 when he was running for reelection and spent more than $11 million in the second quarter of that year. And it has sparked concern among Democrats over what they see as the slow pace of the campaign.

In particular, some Democrats expressed anxiety about what they viewed as Biden’s mediocre small-dollar donor operation — a sign, they argued, that there is a lack of excitement for the president. Across the campaign and a joint-fundraising committee, Biden brought in more than $10 million from donors giving less than $200. But it was still less than half of what Obama raked in from small donors during the same period in 2011. Both were running with largely token primary opposition.

The total was slightly more than the $8.3 million Biden raised in unitemized donations during the second quarter of 2019. But he was a primary candidate then. Now, he is a president who possesses an email list that his campaign has said includes “close to 25 million email subscribers.”

Biden’s team has projected confidence, dismissing the idea that they should be spending more now. And aides said that 30 percent of their “donor universe” this quarter were new donors since 2020. They note that it is early in the cycle. Other Democratic candidates also saw similarly unexceptional small-dollar numbers in the second quarter, as did Republicans.

Unlike Obama, Biden enjoys a flush DNC — and his campaign is leaning on the national party heavily in this early stage of the election. The goal, according to Biden advisers, is to run an efficient operation that spreads costs across the board. The DNC has more than 300 staff members, an aide said, and the organization’s communications, fundraising and research teams are particularly involved in Biden’s reelection. The DNC’s technology infrastructure and organizing aides are also playing a key role.

You could read more of this Politico article here.