Gay Hollywood donors are keeping a close eye on Joe Biden as he contemplates a possible run for president in 2016, with some already pledging their support for the vice president should he decide to throw his hat into the ring.
“I just heard from a major bundler for Obama who happens to be gay and he’s joining our finance team,” Jon Cooper, national finance chair for Draft Biden, told TheWrap. “On issue after issue after issue, Joe Biden has been on the front lines, often leading in the battle for LGBT equality.”
Cooper, a prominent bundler for President Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012 who himself is gay, said that while Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has secured support and donations from many in the entertainment industry, “several big Hollywood gay donors” have called him to pledge their provisional support for Biden.
The vice president has long enjoyed the support of the gay community. His 2012 announcement that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriages, a position that went beyond the “evolving” views of Obama at the time, has scored him major points among the LGBT electorate.
“I remember that day. It was May 6, 2012. I think a lot of gay people will remember it too,” Cooper said. “For the vice president of the United States to endorse same-sex marriage was extremely important and it helped move the cause forward. I’m fully confident that Joe Biden will be extremely popular with the LGBT community. Not just LGBT voters but donors.”
An endorsement from the gay community is nothing to sneeze at. The combined buying power of the U.S. LGBT adult population in 2014 was estimated at $884 billion, and according to the Washington Post roughly one in six of Obama’s top campaign “bundlers” is gay.
When President Obama announced his support for gay marriage just days after Biden, his campaign was soon flooded with donations. While an Obama campaign spokesman at the time discounted reports that $1 million was donated in the 90 minutes after the president’s announcement, a source close to Obama called the response “astounding.”
Hillary Clinton did not formally renounce her opposition to same-sex marriage until 2013.
So far, the former secretary of state has managed to secure the support of 51 out of Obama’s 770 top fundraisers, among them DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. But those in Biden’s camp insist many gay Hollywood donors only pledged their money to Clinton because there was no other palatable alternative. If Biden runs, they say, it will be a game changer.
Biden’s track record on LGBT issues is arguably stronger than even Clinton’s. Before Caitlyn Jenner brought transgender issues to the forefront, in 2012 Biden called trans discrimination the “civil rights issue of our time.”
In 2014, he told the Human Rights Campaign that workplace discrimination against LGBT people was “close to barbaric.” He was also instrumental in the Obama’s administration’s creation of a new LGBT envoy position aimed at promoting gay rights around the world.
But whether or not Clinton’s gay donors will jump ship remains to be seen. Her support among Hollywood supporters — gay and straight — remains unshakable, at least for now.
If Biden does does decide to run, he’ll have some catching up to do. Clinton has so far raised about $67.8 million, while Draft Biden has set a fundraising goal of $2.5 million to $3 million in the next few weeks.
“The community, for the most part, has been unified in its support of Hillary Clinton,” Dana Perlman, an openly gay Clinton bundler and former Obama-Biden donor, told TheWrap.
Others close to Clinton’s camp say that while Biden enjoys great affection among gay Hollywood bigwigs, he doesn’t have the infrastructure to mount a viable campaign, at least not this late in the game.
In addition, Clinton is no stranger to the LGBT community herself, with many considering her one of its staunchest allies.
Over the years, she’s appeared at countless gay events, expressing her support for LGBT causes including a signature 2011 gay rights speech in front of the United Nations as Secretary of State. Her presidential launch video, released in April, featured a same-sex couple holding hands while announcing their plans to get hitched, a first for any presidential candidate.
But while few doubt her commitment to the gay community, she was slow to endorse same-sex marriage with her stance on the issue largely mirroring public opinion.
She also comes with hefty baggage courtesy of Bill Clinton, who as president signed into law both the “Defense of Marriage Act,” which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman, and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” which banned gays and lesbians from serving in the military for the better part of two decades.
What Clinton lacks on the LGBT policy front, she more than makes up with her approachability. Clinton has earned icon status with the gay community over the years and that, her supporters say, is going to be a hard challenge for Biden to overcome.
Even so, as the battle for gay Hollywood heats up, many believe a Biden candidacy could end up benefiting Clinton.
“What invigorates the whole process and holds people accountable and really cuts through the B.S. is when we actually have really deep competition,” Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the leading LGBT political group the Victory Fund, told TheWrap.
Biden has yet to make a decision on entering the presidential race, but a senior Democrat revealed on Monday that President Obama has given his “blessing” to a Biden run in 2016.
The effort to get Biden to mount a campaign has picked up steam since his son Beau, the former attorney general of Delaware, died of brain cancer in May at age 46. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported earlier this month that Beau lobbied his father to run in 2016 in an effort to keep the Clintons from returning to the White House.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s slipping poll numbers in recent weeks have added a sense of urgency to a Biden presidential bid. Many in the vice president’s camp are worried that Clinton has become vulnerable with the ongoing controversy over her email servers as secretary of state.
But if Biden decides to go for a third presidential bid, he could face an uphill battle.
The former Secretary of State still holds a 34-point lead over her next challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s polling at 20 percent. Biden currently ranks third at 11 percent.
“I don’t know where the [gay] money is going to fall,” said Moodie-Mills. “Hillary Clinton has a way-out-of-the-gate head start. I believe she’s going to continue to corner the market.”