By Andrew Damstedt
Capital News Service
Maryland residents have donated nearly $1 million to Republican presidential candidates so far this year — with Mitt Romney ahead — despite the state's true blue reputation.
Romney's business leadership is why Potomac resident Stephen Caldeira said he donated $2,500 — the limit for individuals — to Romney's campaign. But, Caldeira has also given $2,500 to former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who surged in popularity recently and is a frontrunner in the first-in-the nation caucus in Iowa.
"They understand what it takes to create jobs, to meet a payroll," Caldeira, International Franchise Association president said. "They understand business, and these guys are problem-solvers."
According to the year-to-date reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 15, the bulk of Romney's Maryland contributions came from Potomac, Bethesda and Chevy Chase residents, totalling $355,615 of the $563,557 in contributions he received from the state. Those communities also donated $698,791 to Obama, who has raised $1.76 million in Maryland.
Adding to the total $964,550 that Marylanders gave Republican presidential hopefuls, Texas Gov. Rick Perry raised $133,925 since entering the race in August. Marylanders gave Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, $106,572; and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., $48,306.
Tim Pawlenty raised $28,315 from Maryland donors before dropping out of the race in August, which was more than Maryland residents gave to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, $27,015; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, $26,410; Cain, $15,680; former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., $11,720; and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, $3,050.
Chris Cavey, part of Romney's Maryland team and former Maryland Republican Party vice chairman, said he feels Romney's support has been strong and steady.
"While there's been no official Maryland poll, if I had to guess and I keep an ear to the ground, I'd say that (Romney) is probably ahead of the pack a little bit," Cavey said. "I don't think he's a runaway candidate in Maryland, just as nationally he's not."
Paul has received the greatest number of contributions from Maryland residents with 584 individual contributions, followed by Romney with 502 contributions, Bachmann at 172 contributions and Perry with 85 contributions.
Paul has received 361 individual donations at $100 or less, raising $22,667. Thirty-three of those contributions were for $20.12, which is the lowest suggested donation on Paul's campaign website.
Damascus resident Eric Heyse made 10 of those $20.12 contributions.
"The No. 1 policy issue that got me interested was monetary policy, back in 2008 when things started going bad in the economy I decided I wanted to understand why and it coincided with the campaign and my discovery of Ron Paul," said Heyse, who wrote-in Paul as a candidate in the 2008 election.
Cain has seen his popularity soar since the recent presidential debates and that has Karen Winterling, state director for Cain's Maryland campaign, excited. She said more people are signing up to volunteer and she hopes to have leadership in place across the state by mid-November.
"We'll be a money-making machine and getting his name all over the state," she said.
Cain, who came to the Howard County Lincoln Day dinner in July, has received one $2,500 contribution in Maryland and only 48 total contributions, but Winterling said once people hear Cain's message they are intrigued.
"People want to get behind somebody they believe can win and because he wasn't a career politician and the establishment wasn't behind him, businessmen don't like to throw their money around," she said. "He's clearly a competitor now, and now they're starting to think, 'I didn't really like Mitt, but I liked Cain and his policies,' and they are getting behind him. People are coming to us."
Romney has received 146 contributions of $2,500 — the limit for individuals — the most of any Republican candidate in Maryland. Perry came in second with 44 $2,500 contributions. Romney has also got 120 $500 checks and 69 $1,000 donations.
Lawrence Scott, a co-chairman of the Perry for Maryland campaign and an Annapolis attorney, donated $2,500 to the Texas governor's campaign. He said there's a better chance Maryland voters could help decide the nominee if Perry and Romney are still battling for the nomination on April 3, Maryland's primary date.
"If Perry hasn't won by then, Maryland could certainly be in play," Scott said. "That's a good scenario since Governors Perry and Romney are the only two candidates with significant funds at this point."
In the bottom rung for Maryland donations are Johnson with six total contributions, Santorum, 22 contributions; Huntsman, 42 contributions; Pawlenty, 45 contributions; and Gingrich, 47 contributions.
Maxine Vickers, an Aberdeen housewife, said she donated $250 to Santorum's campaign because she thinks he is the most capable.
"I think he is the most principled person there," Vickers said. "I think you know exactly where he stands and why."
Don Murphy, who led John McCain's campaign during the 2008 election, said while he supports Johnson for president he believes Maryland Republicans are still candidate shopping. Maryland voters typically don't affect the outcome on picking the presidential nominee, he said.
"Not only will this be over before we get a chance to vote, as it's been the case forever, that non-Republicans in these early primary states will have a greater influence on this process than we will. It's disappointing to have our choices whittled down to just a couple when we get a chance to vote," Murphy said.
This year, the Republican National Committee adopted new rules for the upcoming presidential primaries. States holding primaries after March 31 are designated winner-take-all states, such as Maryland, whereas states holding primaries in March are required to divvy up their delegates on a proportional basis.
Kathleen Kendall, University of Maryland communications professor specializing in presidential primaries, said she believes the rules were changed to get states to set later primary dates after the prolonged, media-hogging, battle between Obama and former first lady Hillary Clinton in 2008.
"Maryland is taking a chance by going April 3, they may be irrelevant," Kendall said. "But if there's a tight race between the candidates, and if you win in there and get all the delegates, it could be important."
Many states have disregarded those changes, scheduling early primaries because of the increased media attention and economic boost that brings to the state, Kendall said. Adding to the controversy, Florida has moved its primary date to Jan. 31 causing other states to move up their primary dates.
"Once the votes start, the money flows to the winners," Kendall said.