As Republican presidential candidates flocked to Southern California for a debate and the state GOP convention this week, President Biden was busy in the San Francisco Bay Area collecting campaign checks and painting the election as a choice between MAGA chaos and functioning government.
During three fundraising events in some of the swankiest neighborhoods of Silicon Valley and San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday, Biden touted his administration’s accomplishments on climate and infrastructure, the United States’ support for Ukraine and opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his appointment of the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Despite that progress for the Democratic Party, Biden said he was running for reelection because “democracy is still at stake” in next year’s election, a likely rematch with former President Trump, who has surged ahead in Republican primary polls.
”Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy this democracy,” Biden said during a private fundraising event Tuesday evening at the Atherton mansion of Democratic donors and philanthropists Liz Simons and Mark Heising in San Francisco.
Tickets to the fundraiser cost up to $25,000, according to an online flier for the event, with guests that included California state Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond and state Sen. Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park), a social entrepreneur with deep ties in Silicon Valley.
While Biden has largely avoided fundraising in Los Angeles amid several strikes by workers in the entertainment and hospitality industries, the president took the opportunity in San Francisco on Wednesday to recognize the tentative agreement the Hollywood writers union reached this week with studios.
“I applaud the tentative resolution in the writers’ strike, for example, out here in California and in Los Angeles,” he said, including protections on how AI will be used in the industry.
Biden made the comment during an official round table event with his President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology focusing on issues including public health and artificial intelligence.
Looming over Biden’s swing through the Bay Area was the likelihood of an impending government shutdown, as Republicans who control the House of Representatives fight over a government spending plan.
At a Wednesday afternoon stop at billionaire environmentalist and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer’s house in the posh Sea Cliff neighborhood in San Francisco, Biden said a government shutdown would be “disastrous.” Once a 2020 primary rival, Biden has since fostered a cozier relationship with Steyer, whose Lake Tahoe home the president and his family stayed at during a summer vacation.
“I think the speaker is making a choice between the speakership and American interests,” Biden told the roughly 15 people who had gathered to hear him at Steyer’s home, referencing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Bakersfield) challenging task of negotiating with the hard-right members of his caucus.
At his final event Wednesday, at the Century Club of California, Biden rebuked Republicans, who he said were reneging on “one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress” — funding the government.
“It’s time for the Republicans and the House of Representative to stand up and do their job,” Biden told the crowd of about 125 people, which included California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a longtime Democratic donor and U.S. ambassador to Hungary during the Obama administration.
Though easy for Biden to blast Republicans on this trip through a Democratic stronghold, polling shows some California voters are tepid about his candidacy.
While Biden holds an easy 51%-31% lead over Trump in California, according to a recent UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies survey of more than 6,000 registered voters in the state, nearly half said they would be open to third-party candidates. Those numbers are highest among younger and more moderate or nonpartisan voters.
“I think there’s probably less engagement among younger voters, less enthusiasm for Biden among younger voters,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll.
Compared with 69% of those surveyed who thought Trump’s mounting legal problems could hinder his reelection chances, 84% of voters thought Biden’s age was an issue.
“There [were] greater feelings among California voters that Biden’s age is going to be a liability,” DiCamillo said.
Shortly after Biden departed the Bay Area on Wednesday night, seven Republican presidential candidates, sans Trump, took the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley to woo voters with promises to crack down on immigration and prohibit medical treatment for transgender youths.
But Biden seemed unconcerned with those candidates. Instead, he largely focused on offering himself as the optimistic antidote to Trump, who is scheduled to speak Friday at the California Republican Party’s convention in Anaheim.
“We’re running because our most important freedoms, the right to choose, the right to vote, the right to be who you are, to love who you love, is being attacked and shredded,” he said. “We’re running because our children should have the right to go to school without fear of being gunned down by a weapon of war.”