Former Ambassador Rufus Gifford. | Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Rufus Gifford, one of the Democratic Party’s best-connected fundraisers, is throwing his support behind Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race, just before Biden and his rivals dive into an expensive stretch of early primaries and caucuses.
There are few Democratic donors or operatives with fundraising networks as vast as Gifford’s, and his connections could help Biden compete with fellow frontrunners who have tapped online small-dollar donors to outraise the former vice president so far. Gifford served as finance director for former President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, leading the record-setting push to raise $1 billion to win a second term for Obama in 2012.
“It’s time for me to come off the fence and support him officially. I’ve been in a position where I’ve had split loyalty in this race for a long time,” Gifford told POLITICO in an interview. “We’ve been having this conversation for a year now as a country, and we’re back in the same place we were back a year ago, which is Joe Biden is a fantastic vice president and he’d be an amazing president. So he’s my guy.”
Gifford, who served as ambassador to Denmark during Obama’s second term and later ran for Congress, will host a Biden fundraiser Friday night in Boston alongside real estate executive Mark Schuster and his wife, Audrey. He said he’ll follow that up by helping canvass for Biden in New Hampshire and working with other ex-Obama fundraisers, including former Ambassador Matthew Barzun and former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, to raise big money for Biden’s campaign.
Biden could use the help: The former vice president raised $22.7 million during the final three months of 2019, enough money to stay competitive with his fellow frontrunners — but less than top rivals like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who raised $34.5 million entirely from small-dollar donors during the same period.
Biden’s supporters are hungry to raise ever-bigger sums of money through the early-state contests to help the former vice president hire more staff and air more ads, especially since former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg began spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the race in an effort to peel off more moderate Democratic voters.
Gifford, like a number of other top Democratic donors, is settling on a candidate after shopping around for months. He gave maximum contributions of $2,800 to Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker last year, and Gifford, who is gay, also helped host events for candidates including former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Gifford told POLITICO he has longstanding relationships with several candidates, and no matter what happens in the primary, he plans to help the Democratic nominee defeat President Donald Trump.
“If my guy does not end up at the top of the ticket, come July, I will be doing everything I can to make sure whoever wins [the primary] wins,” Gifford said.