Four turning points turned Mr Biden from being a poor man in the primaries to a powerhouse against President Trump.
October 14, 2020
Long before Joseph R. Biden Jr. broke online fundraising records, long before it was clear that he would become the Democratic candidate, his campaign was facing a serious financial crisis.
It was late summer 2019 and Mr. Biden's online fundraising had slowed so much that his team had to shut down their digital advertising program as a whole. They knew the choice was self-defeating: no more online advertising meant no more finding new donors. The campaign bottomed out in early September 2019 when Mr Biden raised just $ 24,124.17 online in one day.
Now? On a final day, Mr. Biden increased more than that every two minutes.
The unlikely conversion of Mr Biden, a 77-year-old whose seemingly limited appeal to small donors has surpassed him financially in the primaries, into perhaps the greatest magnets for online money in American political history, is testament to the savagery of Democratic Opposition to President Trump.
In just over a year, the former Vice President's online fundraising had increased 1,000-fold to $ 24.1 million by September 30th.
Mr Biden now has a once-unimaginable cash advantage over Mr Trump, and as of September 1, he has set aside about $ 140 million more on television advertising than the president. Money alone doesn't determine the president's winners – Hillary Clinton far surpassed Mr. Trump in 2016 – but the money has given Mr. Biden enviable flexibility to use the voting card to his advantage.
"There would always be a large amount of money going into the candidate," said Michael Whitney, a Democratic digital fundraising specialist who worked for Senator Bernie Sanders in elementary school. "I'm sure you never dreamed of it getting this big."
The New York Times analyzed the flow of nearly 11 million online posts from the first nearly 500 days of his campaign to document Mr Biden's financial turnaround. The analysis related to $ 436 million that Mr Biden and his joint committee had transferred to the Democratic National Committee through August through ActBlue, the donation processing platform. Checks, sales of goods, and other offline donations were not included.
The Times analysis reveals four turning points in the metamorphosis of Mr. Biden's fundraising, beginning with one that Mr. Trump, whose presidency was rocket fuel for democratic fundraisers, inadvertently donated last fall.
The other three points – all tied to the race in different ways – come from the 2020 data: Biden's sweeping victories of black voters in South Carolina and Super Tuesday, the protests after the police murder of George Floyd, and especially the Selected Senator Kamala Harris as his runner-up.
Ms. Harris in particular has boosted his fundraiser. Mr. Biden's previous high for online giving in one day was $ 102,143. He received $ 252,982 on August 11, the day he selected Ms. Harris. The day after, it exceeded $ 300,000.
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Mr Biden's committees raised a record-breaking $ 364.5 million in August, including $ 205 million online. Then it surpassed that figure in September, officials said.
Teddy Goff, a top digital strategist for Mrs. Clinton in 2016 and President Barack Obama in 2012, called these sums "shocking amounts".
"It was not at all clear that a candidate who had not spent the last decade building an email donation list and who was not affiliated with the party's movement would have such amazing success," he said .
That's how it happened.
Trump's Ukraine appeal triggered impeachment – and Biden's fundraising
The first event that reversed Mr Biden's financial development came not long after he scrapped his advertising budget: the September 2019 news that Mr Trump had pressured the President of Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden's son. This act ultimately spurred the president's impeachment. For many Democratic primary voters, it was also a clear reminder of Mr Biden's electoral strength against Mr Trump.
In the 40 days prior to the September 20, 2019 call, Mr. Biden had raised an average of $ 62,500 per day online. For the next 40 days, the average was over $ 159,000.
It was something of a financial lifeboat. In the past three months, Mr. Biden had spent more than he had raised, draining his cash reserves. The additional $ 100,000 a day helped keep the campaign alive, officials said.
Kate Bedingfield, Mr Biden's assistant campaign leader, said Mr Trump's help from Ukraine "made it clear to the world which candidate he feared most".
"And we used that in a way that has produced real results," she said.
Mr. Biden's average daily transportation would never drop below the six-figure figure again.
Even so, Mr. Biden trudged most of the rest of the pre-school years financially. He raised an average of $ 169,059 per day online last October, $ 136,518 in November, $ 128,912 in December, and $ 168,6774 in January.
In other words, there was no growth.
At the same time, donations to his rivals increased. By the end of February, Mr. Biden wavered politically and had only spent the sixth largest portion of the democratic field.
South Carolina revived Biden
Then came South Carolina.
When Mr. Sanders threatened to take control of the primary, black voters gave Mr. Biden a decisive victory – and the online money rained down: more than $ 5 million on February 29 and $ 5 million the next day. Days later, Mr. Biden swept through Super Tuesday to build a delegate lead that he would never give up.
Mr Biden would raise $ 25.3 million online in seven days – more than in the past four months.
Equally significant, Mr. Biden's call for donations was suddenly and permanently higher – even as the coronavirus pandemic was soon freezing American life. He was averaging $ 615,000 a day until Mr. Sanders got out in early April; For the remainder of the month, Mr. Biden's daily average rose to $ 1.1 million.
Mr Biden's email and text lists were still unbearably small for a suspected candidate. "A lot of people have been pessimistic about the Biden campaign's ability to ramp up their digital campaign because they weren't as advanced in primary school as other candidates," said Tara McGowan, a Democratic digital strategist.
Oct. 13, 2020, 8:54 p.m. ET
Mr. Biden's new campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, was in a hurry to improve. She turned down a proposal to outsource much of its digital operations to a company, Hawkfish, founded by billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, and instead went on a hiring and buying frenzy. Nearly 40 percent of Mr. Biden's April spending – $ 4.7 million out of $ 12 million – went into ads searching for new backers online.
The investments were approved despite the cracking economy, other campaign departments pushing to expand, and the payoff seemed uncertain.
"People were nervous and scared," said Rob Flaherty, the campaign's digital director. "Politics was a minor matter."
Donations initially stagnated despite spending and even decreased. In the first few weeks of May, Mr Biden's daily online transportation had dropped below $ 775,000, despite nearly a third of the campaign's total budget being used to find donors.
Floyd's murder sparked a pouring out
During the first few weeks of May, the Biden campaign consistently ran the risk of missing internal digital fundraising targets, according to an official familiar with the matter, and often required external refreshments to hit its metrics.
Then came the video of Mr. Floyd's death, which sparked national protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Millions of dollars flowed spontaneously into racial justice groups and black-run organizations – and into Mr. Biden's coffers as well. On May 27th, Mr. Biden raised $ 1.3 million and began his first two-week stretch of days over $ 1 million.
On June 2, Mr Biden made his first speech in front of his home since the pandemic freeze. He spoke in Philadelphia about race relations the day after the Trump administration used smoke, lightning grenades, and chemical spray to kill peaceful protesters outside the White House for a photo op.More than $ 3.2 million raised – Mr. Biden's biggest day since Super Tuesday week.
Hate-giving is a well-known phenomenon for Democratic donors in the Trump era, and it was a financial blessing that Mr Biden became the ship to defeat Mr Trump.
"Joe Biden showed up and was the counter-president at that moment," said Caitlin Mitchell, a former top D.N.C. Official who joined the Biden Campaign as Senior Digital Strategist in May.
The Biden campaign started with furious spending to capture the newfound energy, and channeled as much money into Facebook ads in the first few days of June as it did in the first decade.
From March 1st to July 1st, the campaign's email list increased fivefold. The Floyd-inspired protests were a clear turning point. In June alone, 2.6 million were added. Mr. Biden had raised an average of $ 795,000 per day for the previous 75 days; In the next 75 days, that number doubled to $ 1.65 million.
Harris' influence was astronomical
Mr. Biden's choice for his runmate was a closely guarded secret of the inner sanctuary of the campaign that led to the unveiling of Mrs. Harris in August. A special Slack channel was set up with a slowly growing list of people invited by the hour as needed. The goal was to spread the news via SMS.
But a minute before the text came out, the Biden-Harris campaign website accidentally went online despite the Confusion went undetected.
The money rush that followed was breathtaking.
Ms. Harris' selection quickly became so popular that the campaign opened a new fulfillment center just for yard signs. In the first 48 hours, more than 48 million US dollars flowed into the campaign, around 80 percent from the Internet. By the end of the month, all of Mr. Biden's 14 biggest days for online fundraising had come after the Biden-Harris ticket was created.
"This level is not inevitable," said Whitney, the former Sanders strategist who credited an investment in human resources and digital infrastructure. "You did very well to get the maximum."
A Biden campaign that used to have just five online fundraisers now counts 45, including those in the D.N.C.
In one notable move, the Biden campaign sent messages about the selection of Ms. Harris to the D.N.C.'s full dormant list, which campaigns generally refuse for fear of being spam filtering and again after their congressional speech. Those two emails, campaign officials said, reactivated 875,000 supporters.
The Biden campaign raised an average of $ 8.1 million per day online for the last three weeks of August after Ms. Harris was selected and during the two national conventions. That's $ 2.5 million more than the previous biggest day.
"In the digital arena, our job is to make windmills," said Flaherty, the digital director. "The candidate has to make the wind."