KEY POINTS

  • Wall Street is holding back on making political donations during crisis
  • Biden's campaign raised just about half of Sanders' in Feb
  • Sanders, who rejects big money donors, may be set to benefit

President Donald Trump isn’t the only politician facing possible campaign issues thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Big money donors on Wall Street have been holding back on their contributions to campaigns over uncertainty surrounding the crisis – and it may prove to be a major problem for candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden.

If the stock markets’ fleeing investors are any indication, the coronavirus pandemic has been encouraging wealthy individuals to play it safe and hang onto their money. That’s extended to politicians, many of whom rely heavily on running their campaigns using funds sourced from super PACs and individual billionaire donors.

Biden’s campaign for president is set to feel the pain from this trend in particular. Although he’s currently leading the Democratic Party primary in pledged delegates, Biden has been struggling to keep pace with his opponents since the start of the year. Although some are anticipating Biden will win the presidential nomination, his campaign funds are far behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the only other candidate still in the primary contest.

“There’s no question fundraising is going to be hurt,” Bernard Schwartz, a Biden backer and Wall Street investor, told Bloomberg.

Biden's campaign raised just half of Sanders' donations in February, with Sanders pulling in $169 million. Perhaps just as troubling a sign is the fact that Biden ended February with just $12 million in his campaign war chest; Trump’s campaign has been vastly outpacing both candidates, reporting $225 million at the end of last month.

Wealthy campaign donors holding onto their money might be bad news for Biden and Trump, but it may prove to be an unexpected boost to Sanders’ campaign. While both Biden and Trump have warmly embraced super PAC funds, Sanders has adamantly rejected donations from wealthy donors, relying wholly on small donations from individual supporters.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing in the United States, Sanders’ unusual fundraising strategy had proven surprisingly successful. By the end of last year, his campaign was leaving his opponents, including Biden, trailing in donations.

Between this hit to Biden’s campaign finances and an increasing disillusion about the former vice president’s chances in November, some moderate Democrats are already looking elsewhere, including to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo, who has said he doesn’t have plans to run for president, has been praised by members of his party over his leadership during the pandemic.

Biden, by contrast, has faced criticism over his seeming hesitation to step into a leadership role during this crisis.

Former vice president Joe Biden will be hoping to bounce back from his dismal performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he finished fourth and fifth respectively Former vice president Joe Biden will be hoping to bounce back from his dismal performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he finished fourth and fifth respectively Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON