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Obama, Clinton and Hollywood big names help Biden raise a record $25 million for his reelection

NEW YORK (AP) — Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars teamed up Thursday night to deliver a rousing New York embrace of President Joe Biden that hauled in a record-setting $25 million for his reelection campaign.

The mood at Radio City Music Hall was electric as Obama said he was offering “a positive case for someone who has done an outstanding job as president.” Clinton said Biden “deserves another term and democracy around the world needs it.”

Biden himself went straight at Donald Trump, saying his expected GOP rival’s ideas were “a little old and out of shape.”

Host Stephen Colbert called the trio “champion talkers” and joked that the three presidents had come to town “and not one of them is here to appear in court,” a dig at Trump’s many legal troubles.

The eye-popping fundraising haul was a major show of Democratic support for Biden at a time of persistently low poll numbers. The president will test the power of the campaign cash as he faces off with Trump, who proved with his 2016 win over Democrat Hillary Clinton that he didn’t need to raise the most money to seize the presidency.

The Radio City Music Hall event was a gilded exclamation mark on a recent burst of presidential campaign travel. Biden has visited several political battlegrounds in the three weeks since his State of the Union address served as a rallying cry for his reelection bid. Thursday’s event also brought together more than three decades of Democratic leadership.

Obama hitched a ride from Washington to New York aboard Air Force One with Biden. They waved as they descended the plane’s steps at John F. Kennedy International Airport and got into the motorcade for the ride into midtown Manhattan. Clinton met them at the event.

The music hall’s marquee was lit up and read, “An Evening with Joe Biden Barack Obama Bill Clinton.” NYPD officers lined surrounding streets as part of a heavy security presence for the event.

Protesters angry at Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza and strong support of Israel briefly disrupted the show, drawing a pledge from Biden to keep working to stop civilian deaths, particularly of children. But he added, “Israel’s existence is at stake.” Hundreds more protested outside in the drizzling rain, many demanding a cease-fire and waving Palestinian flags.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was up first to warm up the sold-out crowd of about 5,000 supporters. Entertainers, too, had their time onstage. Lizzo belted out her hit “About Damn Time” and emcee Mindy Kaling joked that it was nice to be in a room with “so many rich people,” adding that she loved that they were supporting a president who “openly” promises to “raise your taxes.”

The hourslong fundraiser had different tiers of access depending on a donor’s generosity. Other celebrities included Queen Latifah, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo and Lea Michele. Tickets sold for as low as $225.

More money got donors more intimate time with the presidents. A photo with all three was $100,000. A donation of $250,000 earned donors access to one reception, and $500,000 got them into an even more exclusive gathering.

“But the party doesn’t stop there,” according to the campaign. First lady Jill Biden and DJ D-Nice were hosting an afterparty at Radio City Music Hall with 500 guests.

Obama and Clinton were helping Biden expand his already significant cash advantage over Trump. Biden had $155 million in cash on hand through the end of February, compared with $37 million for Trump and his Save America political action committee.

The $25 million tally for the New York City event includes money from supporters who handed over cash in the weeks before the fundraiser for a chance to attend. It’s raising $5 million more than Trump raised during February.

“This historic raise is a show of strong enthusiasm for President Biden and Vice President Harris and a testament to the unprecedented fundraising machine we’ve built,” said campaign co-chair Jeffrey Katzenberg. “Unlike our opponent, every dollar we’re raising is going to reach the voters who will decide this election — communicating the president’s historic record, his vision for the future and laying plain the stakes of this election.”

Trump’s campaign is expecting to bring in $33 million at a big fundraiser next week in Palm Beach, Florida, according to a person familiar with the details who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm a number first reported by the Financial Times.

Trump has kept a low profile in recent weeks, partially because of courtroom appearances for various legal cases, the bills for which he’s paying with funds from donors. He was in the New York area on Thursday, attending the Long Island wake of a New York City police officer who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Queens.

His next political rallies are scheduled for Tuesday in Michigan and Wisconsin. Some Republican leaders have become concerned that his campaign doesn’t have the infrastructure ready for a general election battle with Biden.

Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley issued a statement suggesting that Biden doesn’t support law enforcement or safety.

“The contrast in leadership couldn’t be clearer,” Whatley said. “On the same day President Trump attended the wake of slain New York Police Department officer Jonathan Diller, Joe Biden wines and dines with celebrities at a fundraiser with Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.”

The facts, said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, show that violent crime rose during Trump’s tenure while Biden’s administration has “done the polar opposite, taking decisive action from the very beginning to fund the police and achieving a historic reduction in crime.”

Leon Panetta, who served in top positions under Clinton and Obama, said the fundraiser was an important moment for Biden’s campaign.

“What it does, first and foremost, is to broaden and reinforce the support of all Democrats,” he said.

Panetta said Clinton and Obama, both known as effective political communicators, could help Biden develop a better pitch for his reelection.

“I can’t think of two people who would be better at putting together that kind of message,” he said.

Obama’s attendance was a reminder of his role in boosting Biden’s reelection. A joint fundraiser with Biden and Obama raised nearly $3 million in December. And people who served in the Obama administration are also raising money for Biden, scheduling their own event on April 11.

“Consider what you’ll donate this cycle and do it now,” said an email sent to a network of people. “Early money is far more valuable to the campaign.”

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Megerian reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

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