Obama Headlines a Star-Studded Biden Fundraiser and Worries About Trump Victory

Former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden are closely coordinating as the 2024 election approaches, signaling Obama is worried about Biden’s potential loss to former President Donald Trump. 

Biden frequently calls Obama to discuss the ongoing election and personal matters. But, talking to Ol’ Joe and being productive seem to be two different things, so Obama is taking matters into his own hands by reaching out to Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House chief of staff, and key aides in the Biden campaign to strategize and offer advice. Obama’s active participation demonstrates not so much his backing of Biden as much as his profound worry about Biden potentially losing to former President Trump.

A senior aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that Obama has “always” been worried about a Biden defeat and so he is prepared to “eke it out” alongside his former vice president in an election that appears will be won on the margins. 

In 2015, after the loss of his son Beau, Biden considered a presidential bid, but Obama advised against it, believing that Hillary Clinton had a better chance of winning. Pushing Biden aside created lingering resentment towards Obama among Biden’s aides. When Biden eventually entered the race against Trump in 2019, Obama initially refrained from endorsing him until after the Democratic primary. 

Although they endured a somewhat icy past, their shared disdain of Trump and lust for ongoing power has bonded them ever-tighter as Obama prepares to headline a celebrity fundraiser for the Biden campaign on Thursday alongside former President Bill Clinton.  

The “Evening with Presidents,” set to take place at Radio City Music Hall in New York, will be moderated by Stephen Colbert from CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” He will lead an “armchair conversation” with Biden, Obama, and Clinton. 

Actress Mindy Kaling, known for her roles in “The Office” and “The Mindy Project,” will host the program. The evening will also include performances by musical guests such as Lizzo, Queen Latifah, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo, and Lea Michele. Lizzo is a controversial choice amid allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment from three of her former backup dancers. But hey, nothing Billy and Joe can’t relate to — and rather “on brand.”

Guests at the fundraiser can have their portraits taken with the three presidents by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. The cost of a photograph with all three presidents starts at $100,000, probably because of inflation. Those who donated at the $250,000 and $500,000 levels will have special invites to separate receptions with the presidential trio.

The fundraiser is organized by Chris Korge, a veteran Democratic fundraiser and Biden Victory Fund Finance Chair, along with Jeffrey Katzenberg from DreamWorks, who serves as the campaign’s co-chair, Rufus Gifford, the campaign finance chair, and Anna Wintour, the U.S. artistic director of Condé Nast whom the “devilish” character in “The Devil wears Prada” is based on.

The sold-out fundraiser is being billed as the first of its kind.

Korge said:

This is going to be the biggest fundraising event that Joe Biden has done in his political career. I believe it’s the largest fundraising event in Democratic Party history. It’s also the only time that three [Democratic] presidents have done a [campaign] fundraiser together.

The event aims to raise at least $10 million and attract around 3,000 attendees. Tickets range between $250 to as much as $500,000 with this fundraiser expected to be Biden’s most lucrative yet. In February, the Biden campaign and joint committees raised $53 million, giving the incumbent president a substantial war chest of $155 million, the most ever for a Democratic presidential candidate at this stage in the election cycle.

Next month, Hillary Clinton and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, will host another Broadway fundraiser for Biden. Ticket prices will range from $500 to $5,000, and attendees will be subjected to a performance of “Suffs,” a musical on the women’s suffrage movement co-produced by Hillary Clinton.

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