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State's GOP donors keep wallets closed

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Haley, Sheheen debate jobs, education, taxes

South Carolina gubernatorial candidates Nikki Haley and Vincent Sheheen debated Tuesday at the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg.

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. Santorum 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 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 University 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. "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.

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, ahead of Perry $22,375 to $12,250.

Perry has found most of his South Carolina support in the Upstate; the Greenville-Spartanburg metro area gave him $75,750. Santorum raised even more than 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 that is Santorum, who has raised about 6 percent of his money in this state.

South Carolina's first-in-the-South GOP presidential primary is Jan. 21.

Biggest local donors

The following Lowcountry residents have made at least one contribution of $1,000 or more to the following candidates:

MICHELE BACHMANN: Gregory Lenox of Hollywood.

NEWT GINGRICH: Barbara Luby, Robert E. Luby Jr., both of Mount Pleasant.

RON PAUL: Jean F. Carlton of Charleston, Jeffray Lynn Grady Jr. of Mount Pleasant, Norma M. Horvitz of Charleston, Joseph R. McCaskill of Folly Beach, Jody Murdough of Mount Pleasant.

RICK PERRY: John J. Avlon of Charleston; Dr. Andrew Geer of Charleston III; Dorchester County Council Chairman Larry Hargett of Summerville; Dr. Susan Moore of Charleston, Michael Smith II of Charleston.

MITT ROMNEY: Frank Cassidy, Kathleen Cassidy, both of Kiawah Island; Dr. Louise Clay of Charleston, Robert A. Dolson of Johns Island, Batson Hewitt of Charleston, Christoph Hodge of Kiawah Island, W. Andrew McKenna of Kiawah Island, Bill M. Rogers of Isle of Palms, Burton R. Schools of Mount Pleasant.

RICK SANTORUM: Henry M. Cheves and Sandra Cheves, both of Mount Pleasant, Maraide Sullivan of Johns Island, W. Stovall Witte of Hanahan, Eugene J. Zurlo of Johns Island.

BARACK OBAMA: Kristin Dubick of Charleston, Ellen Harley of Charleston, Ken Harrell of Mount Pleasant, Deanna Jackson of Mount Pleasant, Richard Thomas Jerue of Charleston, Mae Morris of Charleston, Charles W. Patrick Jr. of Charleston, Rebekah Stewart of Charleston, Robin Welch of Charleston, Elizabeth Wilson of Charleston, John Winthrop of Charleston.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.

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