Biden Plays Up His Money Edge in Taking Feistier Shots at Trump

Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post
President Biden enters the Roosevelt Room on Tuesday to speak about the crash of a container ship into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.

RALEIGH, N.C. – President Biden has been trying out a new riff on the campaign trail, aiming to seize on a growing vulnerability facing Donald Trump.

“I know everyone is not feeling the enthusiasm,” Biden said Tuesday at a fundraiser in Raleigh, part of a multistate campaign tour this month. “The other day, a defeated guy came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, I’m being crushed by debt – completely wiped out.’”

He paused before delivering the punchline: “I had to look at him and say, ‘Sorry Donald, I can’t help you.’”

The joke, which Biden has told repeatedly in recent days, is emblematic of his campaign’s effort to flip the script on the presidential race since the State of the Union address. With rapid-fire fundraising, busy campaigning and jabs at Trump’s finances, Biden is trying to reverse the perception that his campaign is flagging and suggest it is Trump who is the feeble figure.

The coming weeks will clarify how successful the push has been. A CNBC poll released Tuesday found Biden gaining ground: He had pulled about even with Trump, with 45 percent of support to the former president’s 46 percent – within the poll’s margin of error – after lagging by 42-48 in December.

Before the State of the Union, a growing number of Democrats were voicing anxiety over Biden’s age (he is 81 and Trump is 77), the ubiquitous protests over his Gaza policy and polls that showed him trailing Trump in key states. Now, he is using a stepped-up campaign schedule to build a substantial fundraising advantage as Trump struggles with his personal and political finances.

Biden attacked Trump multiple times during a speech in Raleigh on Tuesday that was ostensibly focused on health care but included jabs against “my predecessor” on issues ranging from taxes to the Supreme Court. Biden accused Trump of seeking to “take us back to when cancer patients were cut off from insurance halfway through chemo” due to coverage caps.

“It’s sick,” he said.

Aides have also amped up their rhetoric, while adding an edge to it – referring to Trump as “Broke Don” or “Low-energy Don.” Beyond the finances, they are increasingly ridiculing Trump in more direct and personal ways, taking aim at his slower campaign pace and verbal flubs.

Biden’s joke about his opponent being “completely wiped out” is the closest he has come to commenting on Trump’s legal challenges, which include four criminal cases and civil judgments in excess of a half-billion dollars. White House officials are wary of Trump’s allegations that Biden’s Justice Department is targeting him for political reasons – a claim the former president has used to rally support despite not offering any evidence to back it up.

But with Trump’s political operation spending tens of millions of dollars on his legal defense and the former president initially struggling to post a bond to delay enforcement of a more than $450 million judgment in a New York civil fraud trial, Biden’s campaign has seized on the finance gap to try to undercut him and his boasts of financial wizardry.

On Monday, Trump won a reprieve from a New York appeals court, which granted his request to reduce his bond in the civil case to $175 million. He also benefited from a development on Wall Street, as his Truth Social company won approval to trade on the Nasdaq composite index starting Tuesday. The stock’s share price surged about 35 percent Tuesday morning.

But while Trump’s stake is worth billions on paper, he is prohibited from selling for six months. And there is little sign that his broader financial problems are easing significantly.

The Biden campaign last week reported $71 million cash on hand as of the end of February, more than twice the $33.5 million Trump’s campaign reported. Biden and Vice President Harris added to that total during the rare joint fundraiser Tuesday, raking in more than $2 million, according to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D).

Biden plans to cap his busy March on Thursday with what aides describe as the biggest money draw of the campaign to date, as he is joined by former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The event, hosted by actor Mindy Kaling, will also feature musical guests including Lizzo, Queen Latifah and Ben Platt.

The three presidents will be joined onstage for a conversation moderated by comedian Stephen Colbert, who has often pilloried Trump for his finances, business record and legal problems.

Tickets have sold out and the fundraiser is expected to raise more than $10 million, according to two people familiar with the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential details. The price ranged from $225 to $500,000, and higher-priced tickets come with perks such as a photo of the attendee with the three presidents.

“I believe it’s going to be the largest Democratic fundraiser in the history of Democratic politics,” said Chris Korge, the national finance chair of the Biden Victory Fund. “The excitement level for this event is incredible.”

Biden and his aides have mocked Trump for his relatively meager fundraising. “If Donald Trump put up these kinds of numbers on The Apprentice, he’d fire himself,” Michael Tyler, communications director for the Biden campaign, said in a statement last week.

Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But on Monday, the former president told reporters that Biden was politically weakened due to high inflation and global instability. He added without evidence that Trump himself was being targeted for political reasons, including in the court cases that have strained his finances.

“So what they do is they do election interference, which is court cases and ‘let’s try to take as much of his money as possible,’” Trump said.

Trump has previously shown an ability to succeed even when he does not have a money advantage, defeating Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016 despite being heavily outspent.

In addition to trying to get under Trump’s skin, Biden’s allies are seeking to quiet concerns among anxious Democrats that their campaign had been slow to gear up. Since Biden’s fiery State of the Union speech this month – which was followed by a rush of $10 million in donations – the Biden team has touted plans to open more than 100 offices this month and has launched a $30 million spring advertising blitz.

Biden has visited every battleground state since the State of the Union, according to campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez.

The Biden campaign is going after Trump as a feeble and confused figure, a critique that Biden’s Republican adversaries have been leveling at Biden for months. “America deserves better than a feeble, confused and tired Donald Trump,” Biden campaign spokesman James Singer said after a Trump news conference Monday.

The “Biden-Harris HQ” account on X, meanwhile, has taken on a feistier tone. It highlights Trump’s apparent verbal stumbles, as when the former president said, “We’ll bring crime back to law and order” – again repurposing a tactic long used by Biden’s political foes.

When Trump posted about getting an award at one of his own golf clubs, the Biden-Harris account responded sarcastically, “Congratulations, Donald. Quite the accomplishment,” and sent out an image of Trump placing a medal around his own neck.

Biden’s aides are hoping their growing money advantage will not only provide a psychological edge but also enable Biden to track down more elusive voters.

“The voters who we need to persuade are not interested in paying attention to politics, so they’re harder to find – and harder to find always translates into expensive to find,” said Molly Murphy, a Democratic pollster. “So having the resource advantage is absolutely crucial.”

Unlike Hillary Clinton in 2016, Biden can take advantage of his incumbency, allowing him to save funds while still engaging in political combat. At official, taxpayer-funded events as president, Biden has increasingly attacked Trump on policy matters including health care, taxes, infrastructure and immigration. These official White House events, which take place around the country, are often followed by campaign gatherings or fundraisers nearby.

On Tuesday, Biden and Harris touted the president’s record on health care during an official event in Raleigh, part of an ongoing push to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Anita Dunn, Biden’s senior adviser, told reporters Monday that the event would offer a clear “split screen” between Biden and his Republican foes.

“After more than 50 attempts by Republicans to repeal it, including attempts that had the strong support of the president’s predecessor, the ACA stands stronger than ever,” Dunn said.