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'This Is Serious Business,' Obama Urges Democrats On Virtual Biden Fundraiser

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Joe Biden and Barack Obama during a signing ceremony in 2016. The former president took part in a virtual fundraiser Tuesday for his former vice president.
Mandel Ngan, AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden and Barack Obama during a signing ceremony in 2016. The former president took part in a virtual fundraiser Tuesday for his former vice president.

Former President Barack Obama joined his former vice president, Joe Biden, on a virtual fundraiser on Tuesday evening as top-level Democrats seek to consolidate voters around the party's 2020 presumptive nominee.

"I am here to say the help is on the way if we do the work, because there's nobody I trust more to be able to heal this country and get back on track than my dear friend Joe Biden," Obama told supporters on the video conference.

The former president said he believes the situation Biden would inherit — with the coronavirus pandemic, a recession and racial unrest — is tougher than the one that greeted him when he came into office in early 2009, but he said that he is inspired by a "great awakening" going on among young people.

"I appreciate you all being on this call, but man, this is serious business. Whatever you've done so far is not enough. And I hold myself and Michelle and my kids to the same standard," Obama said.

More than 175,000 people donated to the Tuesday event, according to the Biden campaign, which billed it as a grassroots fundraiser, though press access was limited, and no video stream was made public.

The event raised $7.6 million, the campaign said.

The fundraiser is the latest in a series of virtual events with big-name Democrats that have brought in significant fundraising hauls for Biden, helping him and Democrats bring in more money than President Trump's campaign and Republicans in May.

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A recent virtual event headlined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who refused to hold high-dollar fundraisers during her own primary campaign, raised $6 million. Sen. Kamala Harris of California recently helped Biden raise $3.5 million. And two other onetime presidential candidates — former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — each raised more than $1 million in their own events.

These events have helped Biden turn around a reputation as a lackluster fundraiser. Throughout 2019 and early 2020, he regularly brought in less money than Warren, Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont despite the fact that neither Sanders nor Warren participated in high-dollar fundraising events.

But in the past two months, Biden's campaign and the Democratic National Committee have raised more than $140 million. Biden was dead even with Trump's fundraising numbers in April and outraised him in May. It's highly unusual for a challenger to raise more money than an incumbent president.

Trump entered the 2020 race with a significant cash-on-hand advantage, and on Tuesday evening, his campaign said it had raised more than $10 million from Friday to Sunday around Trump's in-person rally in Tulsa, Okla.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Biden backer, recently told NPR he's been raising money for political candidates for four decades and said he's never seen this much of a sudden uptick in fundraising enthusiasm. He said the shift has as much to do with how Trump has handled the coronavirus and recent protests over racial injustice as with Biden himself.

Biden's campaign has put the money to use. Last week it announced a $15 million advertising campaign across six key swing states Trump won in 2016: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida.

NPR's Scott Detrow contributed to this report.

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