More than a year ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg aren’t yet fighting for the soul of the party, but they are squabbling this week over top Hollywood donors.
The poll-topping former Vice President and the South Bend’s Mayor Pete are in town today and Thursday to press the flesh and collect checks in the hope of sealing the ATM deal with the well-heeled likes of Jeffrey Katzenberg, Gwyneth Paltrow, J.J. Abrams and Ryan Murphy.
“Now Biden’s officially in, we want see up close if he’s got what it really takes to take down Trump,” a longtime and deep-pocked Tinseltown Dems donor said. “At the same time, we know Joe, warts and all, whereas Mayor Pete is still and unknown quality for the most part.”
Buttigieg, the gay, religious, Afghanistan war veteran and Rhodes Scholar, will be swooping through SoCal on Thursday for a union rally in support of a LAUSD ballot measure ahead of the June 4 elections here, and a likely well industry-attended “grassroots” event in the afternoon. Later there’s a Beverly Hills cash grab, and, ending the day, a fundraiser at the home of Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband-producer Brad Falchuk that will include Bradley Whitford among the guests.
“For a lot of people here, Mayor Pete seems to have that Obama aura of hope and change,” the donor says of Buttigieg, 37, comparing him with Obama’s former VP who is 76.
“It’s early, but Buttigieg seems like the future of the party, when you look at how he came out of nowhere to be a top contender in the race,” another Tinseltown politics regular points out of the mayor’s appeal to a Hollywood always hungry for the next big thing. “There’s no denying that’s there’s a big generational and cultural component to who is supporting who this time round.”
Still, Buttigieg has a long way to go to bruise Biden’s growing war chest – even with an event set for June 19 at the home of Pose EP Murphy and spouse David Miller that counts Bryan Lourd, Greg Berlanti, Matt Bomer, Kevin Huvane and Billy Eichner among the co-sponsors.
Looking at the bottom line, Biden hauled in just more than $6 million in donations in just 24 hours after the April 25 announcement that he’d run, while Buttigieg raised $7 million in the first quarter this year before making his own formal announcement April 14.
“Joe’s had a very targeted and smart campaign so far — he is playing well to a lot of the right crowd that he could be the seasoned pro to pull this thing off,” a once-weary L.A. donor said of Biden, whom he is now backing.
In a packed field of more than 20 declared Democrats, including California’s junior senator and big Hollywood draw Kamala Harris, Biden’s first visit to L.A. since announcing his third bid for the White House is packed Wednesday with punching all the right tickets. Keeping his Comcast relationship solid, he starts his day with a lunch shindig at the home of UCLA School of Medicine’s Dr. Cynthia Telles and spouse Joe Waz, a senior advisor to Philadelphia-based Comcast and NBCUniversal.
After an afternoon event with ubiquitous Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden heads to the Beverly Hills home of former Spain ambassador and HBO exec James Costos and Costos’ partner, ex-White House interior designer Michael Smith, for a fundraiser that starts at 6:30 PM PT.
Back among the corner-office crowd that proved to be big-bucks supporters of his old boss Barack Obama, the $2,500 $10,000 per-ticket get-together will see Katzenberg and wife Marilyn as co-hosts. Peter and Megan Chernin, ex-Lionsgate exec Rob Friedman, Sony’s Tom Rothman and Jessica Harper, ICM Partners’ Chris Silbermann and Julia Franz, former Google/Alphabet chief Eric Schmidt, CAA’s Craig Gering and spouse Jane, ex-HBO heavyweight Michael Lombardo and Sonny Ward, CBS Films boss Terry Press and Rob Reiner and wife Michelle are also co-hosting the jamboree.
“The number-one priority for donors is can the candidate they’re considering backing beat Donald Trump,” a member of the Hollywood political donors’ inner circle told Deadline. “Victory in 2020 is the first, second, third and only thing that matters. Whoever can give people here that confidence, has their money.”
With Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker returning to the Hollywood fundraising circuit too in the next few weeks and the big California primary on March 3 next year, let the games begin!