Joe Biden vs. Hillary Clinton Round 1: Battle for Hollywood Begins With Dueling Fundraisers

Vice president’s supporters plan his first donor event for Wednesday in West Hollywood, while Clinton returns to L.A. on Thursday to raise funds

The movement to draft Joe Biden for a third presidential run is picking up steam in Hollywood, with a fundraiser planned in West Hollywood on Wednesday, a person close to the vice president’s team told The Wrap.

In recent weeks, a group of Democratic donors has been stepping up efforts to draft Biden to challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the nomination. Despite Clinton’s seeming dominance in the Democratic race, particularly among Hollywood liberals, a member of the Draft Biden Committee told TheWrap, “You’d be surprised to know how many people who have supported Hillary have told me they would switch over if Joe Biden announced he was running.”

Though Biden hasn’t officially announced his intentions, his L.A. supporters are already holding a first fundraiser in a posh West Hollywood restaurant. About 45 wealthy guests with deep pockets are expected to attend, including three East Coast operatives from the Draft Biden Committee who are flying in specifically for the event.

“We’re going to see a big uptick in fundraising and public support for Biden in the next coming days and weeks,” another big bundler close to the committee told TheWrap. “I just got a call from a major bundler to Obama in 2008 and 2012 and he told me he was joining the Draft Biden team.”

Meanwhile, Clinton is scheduled to be in Los Angeles for another round of fundraising on Thursday with an event scheduled at the house of Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande‘s manager.

Biden unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008, both times dropping out relatively early. Obama then chose Biden, a former senator from Delaware, to be his running mate in 2008.

The effort to get Biden to enter the 2016 race has picked up since his son Beau, the former attorney general of Delaware, died of brain cancer in May at age 46. On Saturday, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported that he tried to make his father promise to run in 2016 in an effort to stop the presidency from going back to the Clintons.

At least two operatives close to Biden expect him to enter the race before Labor Day, noting that Josh Alcorn, a senior adviser to Beau who raised $1.3 million for Beau Biden’s aborted 2013 bid for governor of Delaware, recently joined the Draft Biden super-PAC.

Alcorn is expected to help lay the financial infrastructure for a potential presidential run.

“Many of Biden’s supporters have been waiting for a sign,” said a person close to the committee. “The Biden family would not have let him join the team if Biden wasn’t seriously considering running.”

The question will be whether Biden could break into the uber-wealthy Hollywood donor crowd that has, for the most part, expressed strong support for Hillary Clinton.

“A lot will depend on the perception of Hillary and whether or not she stays out of trouble,” Claremont McKenna College professor of government Jack Pintey told TheWrap. “Clinton has been cultivating her relationship with Hollywood since the early ’90s. She spent a lot of time here and has kept those connections going.”

New polls show Clinton’s numbers steadily dropping in recent weeks, with 40 percent of the American public viewing her positively and 51 percent negatively.

Meanwhile, Biden is experiencing an outpouring of sympathy since his son’s death. A petition to get Biden to join the race has already amassed 185,000 signatures, most of them in the last few days.

“He has a Hollywood story, doesn’t he?” said one L.A.-based Biden operative who asked to remain anonymous. “He’s the real deal. He tells it like it is, and he’s authentic, which is something that people are craving right now.”

But some believe Biden will have a tough time winning over Hollywood supporters this late in the race, a huge problem for any candidate looking to finance a viable run for the White House.

“Hillary has the support of most of Hollywood’s biggest donors like Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg,” Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson told TheWrap. “She’s established a strong financial infrastructure, particularly in Hollywood. She has more experience raising money. It’s going to be steep hill for Biden to climb.”

Priorities USA Action, the super-PAC supporting Clinton’s presidential run, received an impressive sum from Hollywood, including a $2 million donation from mogul Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, plus $1 million checks from George Soros, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

But those close to Biden say at least some of the big donors have signed checks because they want a Democratic president, not necessarily because they love Clinton. “Everybody loves Joe Biden,” said one Hollywood bundler. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he got the support of Hollywood should he decide to run.”