The unlikely transformation of Joseph R. Biden Jr., a 77-year-old whose seemingly limited appeal to small donors left him financially outflanked in the primaries, into perhaps the greatest magnet for online money in American political history is a testament to the ferocity of Democratic opposition to President Trump.
Mr. Biden now has a once-unimaginable cash edge over Mr. Trump, and since Sept. 1 he has reserved about $140 million more in television advertising than the president. Money alone does not determine presidential winners — Hillary Clinton vastly outspent Mr. Trump in 2016 — but the cash has provided Mr. Biden enviable flexibility to engineer the electoral map to his advantage.
“There was always going to be a large amount of money coming into the nominee,” said Michael Whitney, a Democratic digital fund-raising specialist who worked for Senator Bernie Sanders in the primary. “I’m sure they never dreamed it would be this big.”
To chart Mr. Biden’s consequential financial turnabout, The New York Times analyzed the flow of nearly 11 million online contributions from the first nearly 500 days of his campaign. The analysis looked at $436 million given through August to Mr. Biden and his shared committee with the Democratic National Committee via ActBlue, the donation-processing platform. Checks, merchandise sales and other offline giving were not included.
The Times analysis shows four inflection points in Mr. Biden’s fund-raising metamorphosis, beginning with one unwittingly provided last fall by Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been rocket fuel for Democratic fund-raising.
The other three points — all linked in different ways to race — emerge from the 2020 data: Mr. Biden’s sweeping victories delivered by Black voters in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, the protests following the police killing of George Floyd and, especially, the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.