While a lot of candidates have been shaking hands here in the Lowcountry, a few have also been shaking the Charleston money tree. The names and numbers included in federal campaign filing released last week show who supports whom in the region, in some cases sharply defying polling numbers.
While there are small pockets of blue in this very red state, the Lowcountry for the most part is considered a strong Republican region. While the GOP candidates were far from embarrassed in fund-raising totals — pulling in nearly twice what Democrats collected statewide — they collected only $225,000 in the Lowcountry. Street beggars may be impressed by that total, but it's dwarfed by the Democratic candidates' more than $285,000 in Charleston cash.
The disappointing sums can be blamed on a few things, says Bill Moore, political science professor at the College of Charleston. Many Republicans are frustrated with President Bush, and the party's conservatives in particular aren't fawning over the candidates currently in the field. In a recent nationwide Associated Press poll, "None of the Above" beat out all takers when Republicans were asked who they supported in the race.
"There's no strong enthusiasm for any of the front-runners," Moore says. "That's probably more true in a state like South Carolina with a very conservative Republican base."
While candidates may be hoping these folks are just saving their money for later in the race, the conservative base may just hibernate until 2012. And all those droopy faces across the aisle are stoking the spirits among Democrats.
Local attorney and restaurateur Charles Patrick has donated money to both former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois). A long-time Edwards supporter because of the candidate's take on tort reform, as well as the war in Iraq, health care, and the environment, Patrick found himself in a house divided when his wife, Celeste, gravitated to Obama.
"We're really for both of them," Patrick says. "Our main goal is to get the Republicans out of the White House and get a good Democrat in."
Patrick's not alone. Edwards is getting a lot of support from Lowcountry lawyers, including TV personality Akim Anastopoulo and several staffers and partners at the high-profile Motley Rice law firm. Meanwhile, Obama's support, particularly the more than $50,000 he's pulled in from South of Broad, leaves all the other candidates in the dust.
Realtor Warren Sloane has put his support behind former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a conservative Republican candidate who, like his right-wing brethren, has had a tough time cracking into the first tier. First eyeing the candidate at a fair tax rally, Sloane says he agrees with Huckabee on a host of conservative issues, including a call for states to be more responsible for education decisions. Sloane blogs for his candidate at sloanereality.blogspot.com and he's encouraged by Huckabee's strong performances during debates, but the campaign still hasn't taken off.
"I worry that, as the big events happen, the further behind he gets, the harder it will be to stay in the race," Sloane says. "I'm kind of taking a risk."
Money vs. Polls
Sen. Hillary Clinton is leading by a wide margin in statewide polling among Democrats, with 39 percent of the vote in the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, compared to 25 percent for Sen. Barack Obama and 15 percent for John Edwards. But fund-raising totals submitted last week suggest that, while she may have voters' hearts, their wallets are going toward her competitors, with both men garnering more than $100,000 from Lowcountry supporters between January and June, while Clinton pulled in just under $18,000 during the same six-month period.
It's hard to tell the reason for Hillary's raising issues, Moore says.
"Part of it may be due to the fact that she's not concentrating on raising money here," he says. "She's probably concentrating on raising money in other areas that are perceived to be more receptive."
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More receptive means less Republican. A lot of Clinton's money comes from New York, California, and Florida (where Northerners go to die). Clinton also hasn't had a spotlight in the Lowcountry. Both Obama and Edwards have held campaign rallies on the Peninsula, contributing to their hefty collections. Clinton was in town earlier this year for an event honoring Congressman Jim Clyburn and she was welcomed warmly, but she didn't hold her own rally and likely missed out on a few dollars. Moore says money may not be Clinton's goal in South Carolina.
"They view states based on their campaign strategies," Moore says. "Money is important to run a campaign, but it really isn't the key to campaign strategy."
It's that "run the campaign" part that has stunted Republican Sen. John McCain's campaign. While he's still in a respectable second in South Carolina, a second quarter of disappointing totals nationwide sent some staff overboard, including those in key positions in the Palmetto state. While McCain shuffles his few remaining deck chairs, it may impair his fund-raising ability through the back-end of '07.
Meanwhile, fellow Republican Mitt Romney is rolling in the money in South Carolina, but it's not translating to support in the polls. He pulled in $96,000 in the Lowcountry (even more than Republican-havens in the Upstate). But the CNN poll puts the former governor of Massachusetts at 4 percent. Looming on the horizon are the potential entrances of Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich to the race. Both are already polling ahead of Romney.
But the money game is far from over for any of these candidates. The Democratic debate last weekend surely brought local dollars for each candidate, and Republican voters still have several months to choose between supporting a candidate or taking that vacation to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. And, of course, nobody wants your money come election day — just your vote.
- Candidates looking for money head for the coast, with Mt. Pleasant, the peninsula, and the Islands south of there netting big bucks. Here's a look at the top fund-raisers in four regions, color-coded based on total Party donations