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Biden fundraiser, featuring Obama and Clinton, raises $25 million

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

If you paid enough money last night, you could get your picture taken with three presidents all at once.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

President Biden was joined by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and a bunch of celebrities at a $25 million Democratic fundraiser in New York City. Republican Donald Trump was in town, too, at a wake for a New York City police officer killed in the line of duty.

FADEL: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez joins us now with the latest on the 2024 campaign and the money race. Good morning, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Leila.

FADEL: OK. So set the scene for us with this celebrity-studded fundraiser.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. I mean, it was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York. It was a sold-out event with more than 5,000 people there. You know, it was kind of considered kind of a private event. But we do know from the pool of reporters who are always following the president that there was a lot of energy in the room.

As you guys mentioned, big stars. Comedian Mindy Kaling hosted. Lizzo performed. Stephen Colbert, the late-night host, moderated a talk with the three presidents. You know, Obama - he touted Biden's policies and said unlike Trump, he had a positive message to share - that's Biden had a positive message. Clinton talked up Biden's economic moves as well, talked about trying to work across the aisle on tough issues like the border.

You know, the three presidents were very chummy with each other. You know, it was really just a lot of star power, a lot of money. And when you put all that together, you know, it was kind of an opportunity for Biden to counter concerns about his reelection, about his age and polls that kind of show a lack of enthusiasm. And, you know, just to be clear, I mean, we saw some of those concerns, or at least frustrations, play out last night as well, as the event was interrupted multiple times by protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

FADEL: Yeah. We've been seeing that a lot - voters unhappy with Biden over his continued support for the war. So Biden really needs this money since he appears to be trailing Donald Trump at this point, right?

ORDOÑEZ: He does. He does. You know, Biden is behind Trump in some of those polls. But, you know, he is way ahead when it comes to the fundraising. And last night's event was a big demonstration of that. You know, Trump's got his challenges, of course. He's got a lot of legal bills that his political action committee is helping spend money on - money that could be used for the campaign. The Republican National Committee, which will fundraise with Trump, is busy overhauling the staff. You know, they really just all got a lot of work to do.

FADEL: So that's the money. Fundraisers behind closed doors. Are Trump and Biden getting out much in public on the campaign trail?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. This trip for Biden to New York was actually the highlight of a stretch of campaigning for Biden following his State of the Union address. You know, he visited battleground states like North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania. Trump, you know, he's actually been kind of keeping a low profile. But as Debbie mentioned he did appear yesterday, also in New York, at the wake of a police officer who was killed during a traffic stop.

You know, I did touch base with the Trump campaign. And they say, of course Trump is not going to have the same kind of money as Biden. They had to spend millions in a primary race that Biden did not have to worry about. But they do argue that their digital fundraising is skyrocketing and donor investments are also up. And they say, just wait, promising their own historic night next week when Trump and the Republican Party team up for a fundraiser on April 6 in Palm Beach. And they expect to raise $33 million. You know, it really just all goes to show how big of a money race this election is going to be.

FADEL: NPR's Franco Ordoñez. Thanks, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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