S.C. Republicans have given the least money to presidential candidates — a scant $105,000 — of any of the five early primary states, according to the Federal Election Commission.
One of the state's largest Republican fundraising machines is on orders to 'keep the powder dry' until Labor Day, when U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican from Greenville, holds his Palmetto Freedom Forum, designed to solicit 'more thoughtful answers' from the candidates.
'You look at (DeMint's) total contribution base in the state, it's pretty big,' said Barry Wynn, DeMint's campaign treasurer. 'You take all those people out and say, ‘Keep the powder dry until Labor Day,' that's a lot of people on the sidelines. That's a pretty big force. If they decide to all move together in one direction it could make a big difference.'
Republican presidential hopefuls still are trying to woo the S.C. base of DeMint, a tea party favorite.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann signed the 'Cut, Cap and Balance' pledge Monday at the Columbia Hilton — a pledge DeMint has turned into a litmus test for any candidate seeking his support.
And Wynn said he will meet today with Gov. Rick Perry to help the Texas Republican assess his options for a potential presidential campaign.
Republican candidates typically spend a lot of time and money in South Carolina because GOP voters correctly have chosen their party's eventual nominee in every primary since 1980. The S.C. Republican primary — touted by the party as the 'First in the South' — usually builds to a political frenzy.
The struggling economy and the lack of endorsements from some of the state's leading Republicans — including DeMint and Gov. Nikki Haley — both have contributed to a slower primary season this year, said Republican Neal Thigpen, a political science professor at Francis Marion University.
'So far, I haven't seen where your Republican establishment in South Carolina — your more moderate conservatives and business people, and longtime party leaders and whatever — will go,' Thigpen said. 'They haven't begun to line up behind anybody.'
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, known for his social conservatism, has raised $35,000 in South Carolina, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — considered the GOP's frontrunner by many — has raised $21,000 in the state.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was third in S.C. fundraising with $16,678, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia was fourth with $11,900 and businessman Herman Cain, also of Georgia, was fifth with $10,425.
Bachman, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson all raised less than $10,000.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman recently joined the race and hasn't filed a campaign finance report yet, according to his S.C. spokesman, Joel Sawyer. But last week, the family of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell endorsed Huntsman during a campaign stop in Greenville, one of the few endorsements made thus far by establishment Republicans.
Nationwide, Romney leads all GOP candidates with $18 million. Paul and Pawlenty each have $4.5 million, while Bachmann has $4.3 million. Cain has raised $2.6 million while Gingrich has $2.1 million. Santorum has $600,000.
Democratic President Barack Obama has raised $45 million, including $60,468 in South Carolina. A Democrat has not carried South Carolina for president since 1976.
While the candidates have not raised much money in South Carolina, they also haven't spent much money in the state, either.
Most of the money spent by candidates went to pay the primary's $25,000 entry fee, a requirement to take part in a GOP debate in Greenville in May.
Cain has spent the most money in South Carolina, almost $52,000, which included the $25,000 entry fee and $20,000 to Mauldin-based staffer Daniel Tripp.
Gingrich spent $51,000 with Lexington-based Starboard Communications and consultant Katon Dawson, the former state GOP chairman who since has resigned from Gingrich's campaign.
S.C. donors cool thus far to GOP presidential candidates DeMint aide urges allies to ‘keep the powder dry'