Biden steps up hires despite Trump money gap

Bill Barrow and Will Weissert
Associated Press

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will hire by June at least 600 field staffers dedicated to an “expanded map” of battleground states, his campaign manager said Friday, despite a continued financial gap with President Donald Trump’s reelection behemoth.

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said the growth would target not only states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida that Trump flipped in his 2016 victory, but also states that Democrats must protect, along with traditionally GOP ones, including Arizona, Texas and Georgia.

In this Feb. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a caucus night event in Las Vegas.

O’Malley Dillon, who outlined Biden’s approach in a video conference with reporters, said she expects the new workers to be “on the ground” and reaching out to voters face to face as social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic change before Election Day in November.

But she made no commitment for when that will be, and she reaffirmed that the campaign has no established timeline for when Biden will return to regular campaigning.

“We will never make any choices that put our staff or voters in harm’s way,” O’Malley Dillon said. “Our expectation is we have people on the ground in this campaign doing the traditional work of organizing, but we will do that when safety allows, and we will not do that a day sooner.”

O’Malley Dillon said that the timing of when such campaigning would be safe “might mean different things in different places” and that, in the meantime, Biden will continue online events and outreach.

Asked whether Biden had been tested for the coronavirus, O’Malley Dillon said, “there’s no testing that’s happened now. There’s no plan for that.”

The organizing hires will be the most visible sign of the buildup since Biden hired O’Malley Dillon as campaign manager in March.

Her hiring came as Biden took command of the primary and as the pandemic brought the campaign and much of American daily life to a halt.

The hiring of new staffers is the latest push from Biden’s campaign to counter criticisms from some Democrats and progressive allies that the campaign isn’t ramping up quickly enough.

Besides the personnel moves, Biden aides pointed to an increase in fundraising as evidence of expansion.

The campaign said Friday that it had $103 million cash on hand at the end of April when combined with the Democratic National Committee. The April fundraising total was almost $61 million between the two entities.

Trump and the Republican National Committee said this week that they had more than $250 million on hand, continuing their financial juggernaut as Trump has raised money throughout his term without any serious primary opposition.

On the bright side for Biden, the GOP operation barely outraised Biden in April, as Democrats say they will have enough money to run a winning campaign against Trump, even if they never match him dollar for dollar.

O’Malley Dillon, Biden senior strategist Mike Donilon and deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said Friday that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, the turbulence of his presidency before the pandemic and voters’ familiarity with Biden give the former vice president a wide path to the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White House.

“One of the things that I think has been underestimated about the vice president from the beginning is how strong an image he has with the American people,” Donilon said, alluding to Biden’s comeback to become the presumptive nominee despite an uneven campaign and months of attacks from Trump.

Donilon pointed to recent polls suggesting Trump has a narrower advantage over Biden among older voters than Trump did in 2016 and said the disadvantage Republicans had with suburban women in the 2018 midterms has widened. O’Malley Dillon said demographic changes in states such as Arizona offer an opportunity for Biden.

But she said the pandemic could change the methods of voting. “We know we’re going to prioritize education and mobilization,” O’Malley Dillon said, “but the enthusiasm is there.”