Major Democratic donors are asking themselves: What about Biden?

The Democratic Party’s perpetually nervous donor class descended into deep unrest Friday, with some of America’s wealthiest bemoaning President Biden’s weak debate performance and wondering what they can do to change the course of the race.

Discussions took place with political advisers under which Mr. Biden could be removed from the ticket against his wishes and replaced at or before the Democratic National Convention, according to a person familiar with the effort.

In Silicon Valley, a group of megadonors, including Ron Conway and Lauren Powell Jobs, called, texted and emailed each other about a situation they described as a potential disaster. Donors wondered who in the Biden fold they could contact to reach first lady Jill Biden, who could persuade her husband not to run, according to a person familiar with the conversations.

A Silicon Valley donor this summer, Mr. He had planned to hold an intimate fundraiser featuring Biden, but decided not to go to the meeting because of the controversy, the prospective host said directly. Another major California donor left a debate show early and emailed a friend with the subject line, “Fabulous disaster,” according to a copy of the email.

In panel chats and quiet debates, some wealthy Democrats floated interventions, while others criticized Mr. Biden was a bully and believed he would decide to run on his own, creating even more strategies to divert dollars to lower-polling candidates. More optimistic donors preferred to wait for the polls to see the scope of the fallout.

Crisis in the donor class – Outlined in interviews with nearly two dozen donors and fundraisers, many of whom insisted on anonymity to discuss their private conversations — Mr. Couldn’t come at a worse time for Biden. Former President Donald J. Trump has lifted him one by one over the past two months, wiping out the president’s once-intermittent financial gains and opening one of his own.

By Friday evening, many donors had come away with no prospect of finding a viable replacement, with some dampening spirits and grumbling about the lack of communication from the Biden team with key fundraisers in the 24 hours after the debate.

Big donors require more maintenance than smaller online donors, but those personal relationships can pay big dividends at key moments, Mr. Biden appears to be facing a wave of concern among Democrats about his political strength. The donor class is being watched closely for signs of whether he can ride out the doubts.

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While the Biden campaign briefed some members of its national finance committee in Atlanta on Friday morning, other members were outraged that it had reached almost zero from campaign headquarters.

Reid Hoffman, one of the Democratic Party’s most influential donors, wrote in an email to friends Friday evening that he was overwhelmed.

“I have received a lot of emails in the last 24 hours asking if there should be a public campaign to pressure President Biden to step down after his (very) poor debate performance last night,” he wrote in the email, which was published by The. The New York Times. “It was definitely a blow to morale among donors and organizers.”

Money is a sudden priority for the Biden campaign.

Two months ago Mr. After opening up a $100 million advantage over Trump, the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee banked $212 million in June, compared to $235 million for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

The Biden campaign hoped to close the gap with a major fundraising push in the 72 hours after the debate. With the typically lucrative end of the second quarter filing period, campaigns are rushing to raise money and project momentum.

Mr. Biden’s team planned a series of fundraisers for Friday and the weekend featuring the president and first lady, Vice President Kamala Harris and celebrities in affluent areas including Manhattan, the Hamptons and Park City, Utah.

If nothing else, the shaky debate show cast a shadow over those events and led to concerns about limited gaps.

The Biden campaign played down any financial concerns, announcing that it had raised $14 million in online donations from Thursday through Friday morning, a typically small amount from major donors. Post-debate hours – 11 pm to midnight – Mr. The campaign called it the finest hour of Biden’s re-election campaign.

On stage Thursday evening in Atlanta, Mr. The grumbling and strategizing from big donors continues as the conference calls, text debates and signal chats that began almost immediately after Biden opened his mouth. Some described communication in tones similar to a virtual group-therapy session.

“It’s an immediate response to a disappointment,” said Craig Kaplan, a lawyer in New York and a major Democratic donor.

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During his weekly Friday morning Zoom call with major New York donors, Mr. Kaplan urged participants to prioritize congressional and state races.

“The importance of the lower ballot has been elevated,” he said in an interview, noting the weakness at the top of the ticket. He is Mr. He also said that he did not want to abandon Biden.

Stephen Gosen, a Democratic donor who counts the president as a friend, said Biden tried to downplay donors who were pushing for intervention.

“He deserves a chance to reflect and say: ‘I think I can still do this. I think it’s still the best choice,’ or to decide that he doesn’t have the best option,” Mr. Kosen described his advice. “That’s his decision. I will be with him until he achieves it.

At the core of a democratic society, there was a gap between public and private communication.

Publicly, few were willing to overrule any criticism of the president.

But privately, major donors were pondering what seemed like fan fiction a few days ago, wondering to each other about the veteran of which party — Barack Obama? Nancy Pelosi? Chuck Schumer? – There may be political juice to force Mr Biden to stand down.

Also, Mr. They debated which Democrat would be best to replace Biden as governor. Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and California’s Gavin Newsom are among the more popular prospects.

Some donors argued that the importance of the debate was overstated.

“He’s had a poor performance,” said Robert Wolff, former president of UBS Americas, “but a 90-minute debate doesn’t make up for 3 ½ years of his presidency, so I’ll fight for Biden.”

“Now is the time to put our heads down and fight as hard as we can,” said Chris Korge, chief financial officer of the Biden Victory Fund. “Donors will never leave Biden,” he said.

Silicon Valley Democratic Party Chairman Mr. Hoffman, Mr. He said he believes pressuring Biden is a mistake because it won’t work. “Joe is our nominee; Any decision to step aside is him and his family, period,” he wrote. “If anything, a public effort should try to prove Biden’s doubters wrong.”

Biden fundraisers hear from a wide variety of people — one received a Facebook message from a business school friend he hadn’t heard from in more than a decade — but the campaign itself has been priceless. At noon Thursday, members of the Biden Financial Brain Foundation were expected to be in a prestigious gathering in Atlanta for the summer meeting of the national financial committee of several hundred people.

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Fundraisers at the Atlanta Ritz-Carlton included presentations on campaign strategies and issues and a panel discussion, according to materials distributed in advance to donors. But several members of the finance committee — on vacation, unable to attend a debate without an audience or unable to attend on short notice — skipped the meeting altogether.

Meanwhile, the president and first lady tried to project normalcy to donors.

On Friday afternoon, Jill Biden was in New York for a reception titled “Writers, Wits and Wisdom,” while Ms. Harris was in Park City for her own high-dollar event. Mark Gilbert, a Democratic fundraiser who hosted him in Park City, said the debate didn’t dampen spirits.

“Not only were there no cancellations, but we received several calls asking if it was too late to attend,” said Mr. Gilbert said.

Mr. Biden appeared in Manhattan on Friday with Elton John at the Stonewall Inn, followed by an LGBTQ-focused fundraiser at the Hammerstein Ballroom in downtown Manhattan. On Saturday, she was set to head to the Hamptons for an event at the home of billionaire Barry Rosenstein, who said she was preparing for more than 200 attendees, more than double her expectations. Later on Saturday, Mr. Biden had planned to attend a fundraiser at the home of New Jersey Governor Bill Murphy.

Biden’s fundraiser at the end of Pride month has been filled with cameos by celebrities and those associated with the LGBTQ movement, including a garden party in Los Angeles on Saturday with a performance by Idina Menzel.

However, Mr. Friday ended without a clear sense of what exactly donors can do about Biden. A gallows humor — a meme, a GIF, or a sense that things could always be worse — is the best thing some people can muster.

said Steve Phillips, a prominent Democratic donor in California. “Everyone was resigned to the situation.”

Lauren Hirsch, Liam Stock And Olivia Bensimon Contributed report.

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