Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s ambivalence about the candidates. Or maybe it’s because fewer presidential hopefuls have visited here.
Whatever the reason, South Carolina Republicans haven’t contributed nearly as much money to presidential candidates at this stage as they did in the run-up to the 2008 election.
By Sept. 30, 2007, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani alone had raised more than $700,000 in South Carolina.
As of Sept. 30 this year, all Republican candidates have raised about $400,000 here.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined the race in Charleston in August, and the state’s donors responded.
Perry led all GOP hopefuls in fundraising in the Palmetto State, having collected $105,550 through Sept. 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group.
The next closest is former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who has campaigned here more than any other Republican presidential candidate this time around. Santroum has received $79,555 from S.C. donors.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was a close third with $71,775, while Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has collected $45,750.
Rounding out the list are Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota ($24,701); retired Godfather’s pizza CEO Herman Cain ($19,249); and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich ($14,900).
While the economy might be partly to blame for the lower fundraising totals here, Francis Marion political science professor Neal Thigpen said the numbers also might reflect the fact that no candidate has caught the fancy of the state’s GOP establishment.
“I talk to so many people, and we’ll talk about it. A lot of people say, ‘I just don’t like any of them,’” Thigpen said Monday. “There isn’t anybody on there that really turns these business-type people on.”
Also, the candidates collectively haven’t spent as much time campaigning here as they had at this point four years ago, he noted.
President Barack Obama has collected more money in South Carolina than any other presidential candidate this cycle, with $199,641. Republican hopefuls combined have collected about twice that.
Nationally, Romney leads in fundraising, followed by Perry — who raised the most during the third quarter — and Paul. Santorum, who is second in South Carolina fundraising, ranks eighth nationally among GOP hopefuls still in the race.
Among Charleston area donors, Romney was the favorite, edging out Perry by a $22,375-$12,250 margin.
Perry has found most of his support here in the Upstate. The Greenville-Spartanburg metro area gave him $75,750. Santorum even out-raised Obama in this area, $22,700 to $22,274.
But Obama raised more money than any GOP candidate in the Charleston, Columbia and Florence metro areas.
While South Carolina is an early primary state —and therefore sees a lot of presidential contenders early on —it is not a state of big givers.
Perry, Romney, Paul and Obama all have received far less than 1 percent of their contributions here. The one exception to the rule is Santorum, who has raised about 6 percent of his money in this state.
South Carolina’s GOP presidential primary is set for Jan. 21.