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Biden's next challenge is erasing his fundraising deficit with Trump and the GOP

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.
Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP file

WASHINGTON — In the last two days, Joe Biden picked up Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, and he got Barack Obama’s as well.

But now he has to fix his fundraising deficit to President Trump and the GOP, especially when talking directly to voters via paid TV, digital and direct-mail advertising might be more important than ever in this Coronavirus Era.

Through Feb. 2020, Trump and the Republican National Committee have raised approximately $459 million combined, according to an NBC News Political Unit deep dive into the FEC filings. By comparison, Biden and the Democratic National Committee have raised $203 million during that same time period – so less than half of the Trump-RNC haul.

We’ll get the next official monthly numbers — for March — on April 20.

What’s more, Biden’s fundraising to start this year trails Hillary Clinton’s pace from 2016. In January and February of this year, Biden raised a combined $27 million versus Clinton’s $44.3 million for those same two months four years ago. And if you look just at the February totals, it’s Biden $18.1 million, Clinton $29.5 million.

Money, of course, isn’t everything in American politics — especially at the presidential level. If it were the case, Bernie Sanders would have won the Democratic nomination, and Hillary Clinton would have defeated Trump in 2016.

Also, with the pandemic dominating the news, Trump has been unable (or unwilling) so far to tap into his 2020 financial advantage. (Remember, it was the spring of 2012 when Obama and his allies began to carpet-bomb Mitt Romney.)

And — at least before the coronavirus pandemic rocked the country — Democrats in general haven’t had a hard time raising money during Trump’s presidency. (All Dem presidential candidates this cycle raised a combined $768 million through February.)

Maybe the biggest question Biden faces over the next few months is whether that same kind of Democratic money still exists during this pandemic and economic crash.

We’ll start finding out next week, on April 20, when we get full picture for March, especially in the second half of the month.

Obama is no longer differentiating between Trump and the GOP

The 12-minute video that Barack Obama released Tuesday was one part endorsement of Biden, another part praising Bernie Sanders, and a third part blasting Trump (though not by name) and the GOP.

But what maybe stood out to us the most was how Obama lumped Trump and the GOP together.

“[O]ne thing everybody has learned by now is that the Republicans occupying the White House and running the U.S. Senate are not interested in progress. They’re interested in power,” Obama said in the video. “Repeatedly, they’ve disregarded American principles of rule of law, and voting rights, and transparency — basic norms that previous administrations observed regardless of party.”

That’s a significant departure from 2016, when Democrats — including Obama — tried to separate Trump from the GOP at large.

“Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward,” Obama said in his 2016 Democratic convention speech, as our colleague Benjy Sarlin reminds us.

“But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican — and it sure wasn’t conservative,” Obama added.

Of course, it’s been Trump himself who’s been unwilling to allow any daylight between him and other Republican members of Congress.

And as a result, the Democratic (and Obama) playbook has changed.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

609,443: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 26,143 more than yesterday morning.)

29,681: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 6,087 more than yesterday morning).

3.12 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

About 80 million: The number of people who should receive coronavirus relief checks by today, according to Steve Mnuchin.

“A few days”: How much paper stimulus checks may be delayed by the president’s unprecedented move to print his name on them

25: The number of FEMA employees who have tested positive for the virus.

27: The number of Major League Baseball teams that will participate in a study looking for COVID-19 antibodies in club members and their families.

30 percent: The drop in coronavirus tests analyzed daily by commercial labs in the U.S. over the past week.

$160 billion: The debt faced by the U.S. Postal Service as the pandemic stretches its financial straits to crisis levels

81 percent: The share of voters in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll who say the U.S. “should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy.”

Tweet of the day

Senate Republicans will conduct their own investigation into the WHO

President Trump announced Tuesday that the U.S. will halt all funding to the World Health Organization pending an investigation of the organization’s handling of coronavirus, and the Senate GOP will be leading its own probe into the coronavirus outbreak and the WHO, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team.

Our team reports that the Senate Homeland Security Committee, led by Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, will conduct a “wide-ranging” oversight investigation into the origins of coronavirus and the WHO’s response. A group of Republican senators sent a letter to WHO director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus on Tuesday asking the organization the following questions:

  • What protocols and procedures did the WHO have in place for epidemics, suspected pandemics and pandemics prior to December 2019?
  • Please outline what steps were taken by the WHO, in accordance with protocols and procedures for epidemics, suspected pandemics and pandemics, as a result of the Coronavirus.
  • When did the WHO first know China had cases of a potential “SARS-like virus”?
  • When did the WHO team first arrive in China to start investigating the Coronavirus?
  • Who at the WHO was in charge of coordinating Coronavirus response with the Chinese Communist Party?
  • Do any members of WHO leadership receive financial compensation outside of their WHO salaries? If so, please describe.

2020 Vision: What went wrong for Bernie Sanders?

NBC’s Shaquille Brewster and Gary Grumbach have a deep dive on why Sanders wasn’t able to win the Democrtic nomination.

“In interviews with NBC News, Sanders aides reflected on his campaign with a mixture of frustration, sadness and confusion — believing some decisions and inadequate foresight led to the bleak position the candidate faced after Super Tuesday.”

“A failure to capitalize on his brief front-runner status, they said, combined with a strategy built on the support of young voters and a reliance on the continued presence of a large Democratic field proved a costly miscalculation that thwarted his candidacy with shocking efficiency.”

Ad watch

From Ben Kamisar: The feud between Priorities USA and Trump World is showing no signs of cooling off.

Priorities has already been up on the airwaves for weeks blasting Trump on his response to coronavirus, ignoring legal threats from Team Trump, who claim the ads use the president’s comments about the virus out of context. This week, Trump’s reelect filed a new lawsuit over a station’s decision to air the ad, but the Democratic group is keeping its foot on the gas pedal nonetheless.

Priorities released another spot on Tuesday that pairs Trump’s skeptical comments about how much equipment will be needed to fight the virus with contradiction from frontline workers.

The cavalry is coming to help Trump — his allied, super PAC America First Action, is expected to begin running ads this week in key swing states. We’ll be watching the polls and the airwaves to see whether the Democrats’ head start will make a difference in the long term.

The Lid: No Drama Obama

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we read in between the lines of Barack Obama’s lengthy endorsement video for Joe Biden.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s what you need to know about Barack Obama’s endorsement of Joe Biden.

Sanders says he’ll push support for Biden online but won’t use his vast network to fundraise for him.

There’s a new front in the abortion rights wars amidst the pandemic.

Gretchen Whitmer was already in the political spotlight — and she’s coming under intense fire for her stay-at-home order.

And don’t miss this new book by Fred Frommer on the Washington Nationals, which has a foreword by one of us.