Biden and the Democrats raise $97 million to close out 2023 after a December fundraising blitz

President Joe Biden speaks to the media before boarding Air Force One at Pueblo memorial Airport in Pueblo, Colo., Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, to travel back to Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee said they raised more than $97 million in the final three months of last year, boosted by a star-studded December fundraising blitz that came even as the political world’s attention shifted to the start of the 2024 Republican presidential primary.

The Biden campaign said Monday that it took in $235 million from its launch last April until the end of 2023 and finished the year with $117 million in cash on hand — which it said was the highest total amassed by any Democratic candidate at this point in the cycle. More than 520,000 donors made 926,000-plus contributions in the quarter, it said.

“This historic haul — proudly powered by strong and growing grassroots enthusiasm — sends a clear message,” Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the manager of Biden’s reelection campaign, said in a statement. “Our democracy and hard-fought basic rights and freedoms are on the line in 2024, and these numbers prove that the American people know the stakes.”

The president has made defending democracy a centerpiece of his reelection bid and repeatedly decried Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” movement as posing dire threats to the nation’s founding principals. The GOP primary begins with Iowa’s caucus on Monday with Trump as the early front-runner — and the Biden campaign noted that he and his top primary competitors have already spent $100 million on advertising in the leadoff primary state alone.

Biden traveled to Pennsylvania on Friday and stopped at three stores to make the case that his policies have helped grow the economy and spur small business. It was a change from the set speeches he usually gives, meant to highlight ways his economic plans have ensured strong employment — even while triggering inflation that worries voters.

Meanwhile, Trump and his top primary rivals, including former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, made final weekend appeals to would-be caucusgoers as temperatures in Iowa turned frigid.

Since the Biden campaign’s launch, nearly 1 million supporters have made more than 2.3 million contributions, and 97% of all its fourth-quarter 2023 donations were under $200, with the average contribution totaling $41.88, it announced. Those totals include donations to Biden’s political operation and to a network of joint fundraising arrangements with the national and state Democratic parties.

Biden’s campaign said December was his strongest fundraising month to date, exceeding a record it said was previously set in November. That helped last year’s final quarter outpace the period from July through September, when Biden and his party reported raising $71-plus million.

The campaign said the president has held 110 fundraisers since launching, including 39 in last year’s fourth quarter alone. That included a string of fundraisers before the Christmas holidays that took him to Boston for a trio of events, one of which featured singer-songwriter James Taylor, and three days in California for gatherings with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand.

That fundraising push came after Biden, who frequently calls himself the “most pro-union” president in U.S, history, previously staying away from raising money in Los Angeles for months during the writers and actors strikes. It was meant to quiet some donors who had privately grumbled that the president wasn’t doing enough to stock his campaign coffers ahead of November’s election, which is likely to be hard-fought and close.

Even with so much travel focused on fundraising, however, Biden campaign officials had tried to manage expectations. They said in December that they hoped to raise roughly $67 million for 2023’s fourth quarter — which would be consistent with the end-of-the-off-year totals from previous Democratic candidates.

Instead, Biden’s latest haul outpaced that of President Barack Obama, who with the DNC raised an un-inflation adjusted $68 million in the final three months of 2011, ahead of his successful reelection the following year. Trump’s campaign announced raising $46 million in the last quarter of 2019 and had $102.7 million on hand ahead of a 2020 race it eventually lost to Biden — though its combined war chest with the Republican National Committee at the time was far more formidable.