Powerful Democratic supporters to halt donations until Joe Biden steps down

Powerful Democratic supporters to halt donations until Joe Biden steps down

In the aftermath of the first debate of the 2024 presidential campaign between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, a significant shift has occurred within the Democratic Party. The debate performance has triggered a wave of concern among Democratic supporters, leading to a growing number of influential donors calling for Biden to step down from the race. This movement, spearheaded by some of the party’s most powerful financial backers, threatens to reshape the dynamics of the upcoming election.

Abigail Disney, the heir to the Disney family fortune and a prominent Democratic donor, has publicly announced her decision to withhold donations unless Biden withdraws from the race. In an interview with CNBC, Disney emphasized that her stance is rooted in realism rather than disrespect. She expressed her certainty that Biden’s continued candidacy would result in a Democratic loss, with dire consequences for the country. Disney’s call for Biden to step down has resonated with other major donors, amplifying the pressure on the president.

Following Disney’s announcement, media tycoon Barry Diller also declared his decision to halt donations to Biden’s campaign. Diller, who has previously been a significant financial supporter of Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, has already contributed over $100,000 to Biden and the Democratic Party this election cycle. His decision to withdraw support underscores the growing discontent among influential donors.

Disney suggested that Vice President Kamala Harris could be a viable alternative to Biden, capable of defeating Trump in the general election. She urged Democrats to rally around Harris, highlighting the need to overcome perceived shortcomings and unite behind a candidate who can secure a decisive victory.

In response to the mounting concerns, Biden’s campaign has been working to reassure donors and maintain financial support. A hastily arranged call with top Democratic donors aimed to address their worries and outline plans to increase Biden’s visibility through town halls and interviews. Despite these efforts, the campaign faced pointed questions about Biden’s ability to endure a rigorous campaign and another term in office.

Hollywood powerbroker Ari Emanuel, a significant Democratic donor, voiced his frustration, likening the situation to taking away his father’s car at the age of 81. Emanuel suggested that the only way to resolve the issue might be for the money to start drying up, indicating that some donors are redirecting their funds to down-ballot races instead.

The tension within the donor community was further highlighted during a call with about 40 top donors, where Biden’s campaign manager was asked whether refunds would be offered if Biden decided not to run. This question underscored the growing uncertainty and frustration among donors who feel their influence is limited in this situation.

Screenwriter Damon Lindelof proposed a “DEMbargo,” urging donors to withhold funding until Biden steps aside. Lindelof likened the strategy to applying economic sanctions to a country not behaving as desired, emphasizing the need for short-term pain for long-term gain. Philanthropist Gideon Stein echoed this sentiment, pausing nearly $3 million in planned donations and expressing the belief that a new candidate is necessary to defeat Trump.

Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix and a major Democratic donor, also joined the calls for Biden to withdraw. Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, have been prolific supporters of the Democratic Party, contributing over $20 million in recent years, including significant donations to Biden’s 2020 campaign. Hastings’ decision to withhold support adds to the growing chorus of influential voices urging Biden to step down.

Despite the turmoil, Biden’s campaign has highlighted record grassroots fundraising in the days following the debate, with over $27 million raised from small-dollar donors. However, Biden’s standing in opinion polls has taken a hit, with a significant portion of Democrats expressing concerns about his age and ability to govern effectively.

Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee entered June with a substantial funding advantage over Trump and the Republican National Committee. However, analysts predict that maintaining donor support in the lead-up to the Democratic convention will be crucial for Biden to remain a viable candidate.

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and an influential donor, has continued to support Biden, urging fellow donors to focus on Trump’s flaws rather than Biden’s. Hoffman’s stance highlights the divide within the donor community, with some remaining steadfast in their support for Biden while others push for a change in leadership.

As the debate over Biden’s candidacy intensifies, the Democratic Party faces a critical juncture. The decisions made by powerful donors in the coming weeks will play a significant role in shaping the party’s strategy and determining its chances of success in the 2024 election. The pressure on Biden to step down is mounting, and the outcome of this internal struggle will have far-reaching implications for the future of the Democratic Party and the country as a whole.

Source: CNBC, Reuters, Associated Press, Deadline, New York Times, OpenSecrets

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