Biden hosts star-studded NYC fundraiser with Obama and Clinton

Presidents Obama, Biden and Clinton standing on stage
President Joe Biden was joined by his predecessors, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, for a fundraiser his team says will raise over $25m. [Reuters]

US President Joe Biden hosted a record-breaking election fundraiser in New York City, alongside his predecessors Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

His team said the star-studded evening at Radio City Music Hall raised over $26m (£21m) for the campaign - a record for a single political event.

The president has a cash advantage over Republican Donald Trump so he can spend more on advertising in key states.

Polls suggest the race for the White House rests on a knife edge.

Mr Trump attacked the event's guest list as "deranged Hollywood liberals".

His campaign said on Thursday that the cash disparity demonstrated the difference between Democratic reliance on billionaires in contrast to the working-class supporters donating to the former president.

The high stakes of November's election were underlined by the speeches at the Biden event in New York.

Senate Majority Leader and New York Senator Chuck Schumer told the raucous crowd of 5,000 Democrats they must do whatever they could to ensure that the "dishonest, chaotic, ineffective regime of Donald Trump" did not return.

Comedian Mindy Kaling hosted the event and spoke just moments after singer Lizzo finished a rendition of her hit About Damn Time. Other stars such as Queen Latifah and Cynthia Erivo also took the stage.

But the longest standing ovation was saved for the moment when the three presidents - Mr Biden, Mr Obama and Mr Clinton - came out.

Chants of "four more years" echoed throughout the auditorium for Mr Biden.

"Three presidents... and none of them are here [in New York] to go to court," joked comedian Stephen Colbert, alluding to Mr Trump's legal troubles.

Stephen Colbert moderates a discussion with presidents Biden, Obama and Clinton.
The discussion between the three presidents was moderated by comedian Stephen Colbert. [Reuters]

The late-night comedy host then moderated a conversation between the three presidents.

Mr Biden began with an oft-repeated slogan, saying democracy was at stake in this election. He said Mr Trump had a "perverse view of the world", noting his opponent's vocal support of those who participated in the 6 January Capitol Riot and his buoying of authoritarian leaders abroad.

"But I'm really hopeful," the president added. "If we get by this election, we can set the course for the next four, five, six decades."

Mr Obama, for his part, touted Biden's legislative victories. He said the president had done everything from reducing the cost of medicine to creating jobs - particularly for African Americans.

He added that Mr Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, and his supporters seemed "increasingly unconcerned with the essence of America", which he said was centred on the idea of "bridging our differences and moving forward".

Mr Clinton, meanwhile, accused Mr Trump of "stealing a few good years" from the back of Mr Obama's administration and somehow claiming "overnight" successes.

The four men ended their time on stage by putting on aviator sunglasses in an impression of Mr Biden, which earned a standing ovation.

First Lady Jill Biden was due to host a private after-party for 500 guests. The president's son, Hunter Biden, and his family were to attend.

The tickets were priced between $225 and half-a-million dollars. For $100,000, guests could get a picture with Mr Biden, Mr Obama and Mr Clinton, with star photographer Annie Leibovitz taking the snaps.

While the three presidents were on the same page during their time on stage, the event did not pass without incident.

Protesters who condemn Israel for its invasion of the Gaza Strip gathered outside Radio City Music Hall to call for a ceasefire. Some were able to interrupt the event inside the theatre as well.

Mr Biden quickly took up the issue over the shouts of the protesters and to the applause of the crowd.

"There has to be a two-state solution, a progression," he said. "But I'm confident that can be done with Israel's integrity... preserved."

Protesters outside of Radio City Music Hall, where President Joe Biden held a star-studded fundraiser.
Pro-Palestinian protesters were outside the event, and some were able to interrupt the fundraiser inside as well. [Reuters]

The Israel-Gaza war is one of the issues that has been dragging down Mr Biden's approval rating. Voters are also unhappy about the economy, inflation and immigration.

Facing lagging approval ratings, the 81-year-old has worked to capitalise on momentum following his well-received State of the Union Address earlier this month.

The Biden campaign recently declared it had $155m cash on hand, which it said was the biggest war chest any Democratic candidate had ever possessed at this point in an election cycle.

Mr Trump and his political action committees reported having $74m.

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The president's fundraising lead over Mr Trump - who is seeking a return to the White House four years after his presidency ended - has been boosted by the advantage of incumbency, experts say.

"Biden raising a lot of money is probably a function of him not having any real primary challengers," Joseph Campbell, a communications professor at American University, told the BBC. "There's no competition for Democratic donor money."

Mr Trump's campaign and his joint fundraising committee - which have helped pay the former president's legal bills - brought in $20m in the whole of February, less than what the Biden campaign expects to receive just from Thursday's event.

While Mr Biden has been criss-crossing the country in recent weeks, Mr Trump has kept a lower political profile as he juggles court appearances.

But he also appeared in the New York area on Thursday, attending the wake of a police officer, Jonathan Diller, who was shot and killed in the line of duty.

His campaign contrasted his attendance at the wake with Mr Biden's decision to attend "a glitzy fundraiser in the city with their elitist, out-of-touch celebrity benefactors" alongside Mr Obama and Mr Clinton.

President Biden was joined on the Air Force One flight to New York by Mr Obama, who remains close to his former vice-president.

New York ground to a halt for their arrival as the two men's huge motorcade cut across Manhattan in the pouring rain as hundreds of onlookers jostled to take pictures ahead of the fundraiser.

Mr Trump, 77, blasted the Democratic event in a fundraising campaign email on Thursday morning.

"Hundreds of deranged Hollywood liberals will be in attendance, and they will open their wallets to fund the destruction of this country!" the message said.

Mr Biden's campaign has spent tens of millions on TV and digital advertising targeting black and Latino voters, as the president seeks to hold together the coalition that put him in the White House in the 2020 election.

Some opinion polls have suggested that loyalty among these key voting blocs could be softening, though recent surveys show the president's approval could be beginning to rebound.

The 2024 presidential election cycle is predicted to be the most expensive in history, with an estimated $2.7bn spent on presidential campaign ads alone.

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