Biden starts ramping up — while building a cash advantage over Trump

President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign swelled in size at the end of last year as it ramped up operations after months of relative quiet.

The campaign spent more money in the final three months of the year than in the first nine months combined, according to campaign finance reports filed late Wednesday night.

Payroll alone more than doubled from the third quarter, while media production and airtime buys grew by over $3 million, to nearly $12.2 million. All told, the campaign spent $19.3 million in the final quarter of 2023, compared to roughly $14 million over the previous nine months.

Biden’s ballooning payroll and cash balance reflect the campaign’s pivot to what’s likely to be the longest general election season in modern political history.

The shift comes after months of a slow build-up in staffing, and the ramp-up has continued since. Biden spent the last month hitting the campaign trail with speeches and rallies in Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina. His campaign has also announced a spree of recent hires and dispatched two top White House aides — Jen O’Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon — to headquarters in Wilmington, moves that are not reflected in Wednesday’s filing because they happened in the new year.

In total, Biden, the Democratic National Committee and their joint fundraising committees raised more than $97 million in the final three months of 2023, numbers the campaign previously announced earlier this month. That represented a roughly $26 million improvement quarter-over-quarter.

Biden’s political apparatus — the campaign, the Democratic National Committee and a trio of affiliated joint fundraising committees — reported having collectively over $117 million on hand.

That haul is likely to give Biden a significant advantage over his most likely general election rival, former President Donald Trump. While not a perfect comparison — the Republican National Committee is, at least formally, still neutral in the GOP primary — Trump’s campaign and affiliated fundraising committees reported about $42 million in cash reserves, while he spends heavily on his legal fees.

Biden’s end-of-year fundraising places him ahead of the reelection effort of former President Barack Obama and the DNC, which raised $67 million during the same period in 2011, but behind then-President Trump and the Republican National Committee, which raised $154 million during the fourth quarter of 2019.

Biden’s campaign had already begun to build out its payroll in the third quarter of 2023, when its staff grew from 4 to 38 people. The campaign had 80 people on the payroll by the end of the year.

But that late build-up has worried Democrats in battleground states, who argued that a lack of on-the-ground infrastructure could harm Biden’s efforts to rebuild his coalition ahead of 2024. By early December, five swing states still didn’t have state directors, a pace that lagged far behind Trump’s reelection operation in 2019.

Biden is further bolstered by an enormous fundraising year for Future Forward, the top outside group backing his reelection. That group said it raised over $200 million in 2023.

The money advantage is already translating into a historic ad buy. Future Forward announced earlier this week a $250 million TV ad buy for the general election, which the super PAC says is the largest single purchase of political advertising in history. The ads, targeting seven battleground states, will start airing immediately after the Democratic National Convention in August and run through Election Day.

Biden’s reelection effort also got an unusual boost in New Hampshire, a state whose primary he did not officially compete in earlier this month after the state defied the DNC’s preferred primary calendar to hold onto its first-in-the-nation primary status.

Instead, a group of Granite State Democrats pushed for voters to write in Biden’s name in what was an ultimately successful effort that saw him run away with a win despite his name not actually being on the ballot. That effort was boosted by the super PAC Granite for America — which in filings Wednesdays disclosed that it was almost entirely funded by Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent Democratic — and Biden — donor.

Jessica Piper contributed to this report.

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