By Alexandra Ulmer
(Reuters) – U.S. Representative Dean Phillips on Thursday told Reuters that he is loaning his campaign about $2 million to fund his long-shot bid to challenge President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination and said he was attending fundraisers in major cities.
Seizing on the 80-year-old Biden’s lackluster approval ratings and voter wariness over his age, the millionaire businessman and gelato company co-founder announced his bid last week.
“I seeded my campaign with capital because I had to,” Phillips, 54, told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of an event at Manny’s, a meeting space in San Francisco. “I wouldn’t say it’s the max, but that’s my intentional max.”
Phillips, a three-term congressman from a swing district in Minnesota, said he would not take money from lobbyists and would not seek outside fundraising groups working on his behalf, vowing to focus instead on smaller contributors. “I think money in politics is awfully destructive,” he said, citing, among other things, the time politicians spend listening to donor concerns over the concerns of average voters.
Still, Phillips acknowledged he would be attending fundraisers with big-dollar individual donors who can give a maximum of $3,300 in the presidential primary fight.
“I will be in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and I’ll be going to New York and Chicago, and Miami and larger cities to raise resources and campaign,” Phillips said.
Biden’s 2024 re-election team and his party in October said they had raised $71 million during the third quarter.
Phillips said he did not know exactly how much he had raised since launching his campaign. He said he was getting “dozens” of calls from bigger donors, without sharing details.
Phillips is unlikely to affect Biden’s chance of securing the party’s nomination, given Biden’s deep resources, official party support and the reshaping of the Democratic party’s nominating contest calendar to help fend off any early challengers.
Even so, Democrats are wary of any challenge to Biden that could dent the party’s chances against likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Opinion polls show Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want someone other than Biden to be the party’s nominee, citing concerns about his age.
“I think Joe Biden is a good man but he’s been doing this for 50 years,” Phillips told a crowd of several dozen in San Francisco. “He is probably one of the only Democrats who could lose to Donald Trump. And frankly, the truth is, he probably will.”
(This story has been refiled to clarify that the loan is for Dean Phillips’ campaign in paragraph 1)
(Reporting By Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Leslie Adler)