By MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Joe Biden and Barack Obama reunited for the first time in the 2020 election cycle for a grassroots fundraiser Tuesday evening that raised more than $11 million, according to the campaign — the best fundraising event for the former vice president so far.
More than 175,000 grassroots donors raised $7.6 million for the event — a total alone that topped the $6 million brought in by a fundraiser with Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week, previously their best event of the 2020 cycle. An additional roughly $3.4 million was raised during a portion of the event reserved for high-dollar donors.
The event was the first fundraising effort by Obama, who praised his former second-in-command as the man for the job he once held.
“I am here to say that help is on the way if we do the work, because there’s nobody that I trust more to be able to heal this country and get it back on track, than my dear friend Joe Biden,” Obama said.
The massive sum is a boost to a campaign that had struggled to compete with the fundraising prowess of some of its top rivals throughout the Democratic primary. In January alone, the Biden campaign raised $8.9 million, over $1 million less than the joint event with Obama on Tuesday brought in.
During the joint event, which was Obama’s first time appearing side-by-side with Biden since he became the presumptive Democratic nominee, the former president urged Democrats not to get “complacent or smug” about the state of the presidential race and a slate of recent polling that shows Biden with a steady lead over President Donald Trump.
“We can’t be complacent or smug or suggest that somehow it’s so obvious that this president hasn’t done a good job because, look, he won once, and it’s not like we didn’t have a good clue as to how he was going to operate the last time,” Obama said Tuesday.
Obama, who officially endorsed Biden in a video message in April, also made a pointed pitch to young voters, and urged those spurred to action during the recent nationwide protests for racial justice to harness that energy and use it at the ballot box this November, even if they are disillusioned with the electoral process.
“I’ve run into some folks who are active in the current demonstrations and protests, are passionate about issues, but have voiced or bought into this notion that somehow electoral politics isn’t connected to what’s happening,” Obama said. “In the words of Dr. King … pursuing justice, it’s never an either-or proposition, it is a both-and proposition. We have to raise awareness and disrupt the status quo. In order to create space for change.”
The fundraiser comes as the campaign continues to face impacts due to COVID-19, which has largely kept Biden off the trail. Obama referenced the coronavirus, and Trump’s willingness to avoid the advice of his advisers on it.
“We have to listen to public health experts and — poor Dr. Fauci, who you know, is having to testify and then see his advice clouded by the person he’s working for. We’ve got to pay attention to what the public health experts say when it comes to this campaign season,” Obama warned, as many states have seen the number of coronavirus cases on the rise.
Obama’s team said Tuesday that the joint event with Biden is just the beginning of his reemergence onto the campaign trail.
“President Obama looks forward to campaigning and raising money this fall for Democrats up and down the ballot, just as he did in the 2018 midterm cycle. He believes this November’s election — the most consequential in our lifetimes — is too important for anyone to sit out,” said Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for the former president.
The $11 million haul also comes after Biden’s most successful fundraising month of the campaign, raising $80.8 million in May in concert with the Democratic National Committee, outpacing Trump’s juggernaut reelection effort for the first time.
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee still retain a hefty war chest, and announced last week they have $265 million cash on hand, far outpacing the Biden effort thus far.
Obama and Biden, famous for their friendship during their time in the White House, proved the “bromance” is still going strong.
“Love you Joe,” Obama said, signing off from the event.
“Love you too, pal,” Biden replied.
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