The presidential election may be more than a year away, but Wisconsin residents have already begun voting with their wallets. According to Federal Election Commission records, state donors have given more than $608,000 to the top eight Republican presidential candidates and Democratic President Joe Biden in the first six months of the year.
Leading the way is GOP frontrunner and former President Donald Trump, who has taken in $244,142 from Wisconsinites so far this year. He is followed, surprisingly, by former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who had collected $139,595 from state contributors, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is third with a haul of $126,720.
No other Republican presidential candidate pulled in more than $30,000 from the Badger State. Biden has received $37,584 from state donors. This would not include money collected by Vice President Kamala Harris in recent Milwaukee-area fundraisers.
Elaboration on Republican Candidates
Political experts said there are many more campaign dollars to be collected in the state before the November 2024 general election. Eight leading Republican candidates, minus Trump, are holding their first primary debate at the Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night.
Trump, who holds a significant lead over the rest of the field, has decided to skip the debate in favor of doing a taped interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Trump is facing federal and state indictments in four jurisdictions — New York, Washington, D.C., Georgia, and Florida.
“The money is looking for someone else this time,” said Republican lobbyist and strategist Bill McCoshen, referring to Trump. “They know Trump is a hard sell in Wisconsin.”
Between January and July, Haley received 762 contributions from state residents at an average of $183 per donation. She held one fundraiser in the state in June and has another scheduled for Thursday. Donors can give $3,300 for the primary and another $3,300 for the general.
Among her top donors were Milwaukee business leaders and philanthropists Ted and Mary Kellner, who each donated $3,300 to Haley’s campaign. Ted Kellner hosted a Trump fundraiser in Milwaukee in July 2018 and gave to Biden’s campaign a year later. (The president and Kellner have been personal friends for decades).
In addition, Haley received the maximum donation of $6,600 from Continental Properties CEO James Schloemer and President Daniel Minahan. Former University of Wisconsin System Regent Scott Beightol also chipped in $3,300.
Nikki Haley’s Inside Link to Wisconsin Politics
Ask in-state Republican operatives why Haley is doing so well in Wisconsin, and they all cite one person: Betsy Ankney, her campaign manager.
Ankney developed strong ties in Wisconsin while engineering U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s surprise victory over former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold in 2016. She then took over as the political director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2020 cycle, advising Senate candidates around the country.
“Betsy knows this state really well,” said one veteran Republican campaign consultant who is not backing any candidate. “She has other spots, too, from her time at the NRSC. She is good and not to be underestimated at the national level.”
But to win, Haley will have to play the long game, the consultant said. Right now, she is running in the middle of the pack with numbers in the single digits.
“Dark horse is her strategy and to come from behind at the right time,” the GOP consultant said. “Timing is a real challenge in presidential politics, though.”
Ron DeSantis’ Fundraising Success in Wisconsin
In the first half of the year, DeSantis received 149 donations from Wisconsin supporters at an average of $850 each, the largest average donation of the Republican candidates.
These figures do not include the Florida governor’s haul from two major fundraisers on July 11, a breakfast event in Hartland and a luncheon in Lake Geneva.
The hosts for both events included GOP megadonors Liz and Dick Uihlein, owners of Uline packaging company in Pleasant Prairie; Milwaukee financier Steve Einhorn and his wife, Nancy; and Nora and Jim Barry, president of Barry Co. commercial real estate brokerage.
Hosts for the Hartland event only included former Revenue Secretary Cate Zeuske and former Assembly Speaker John Gard; former Public Service Commission Chair Ave Bie; and GOP donor Stephen Ziegler.
One Wisconsin-based DeSantis bundler said the target for the two events was $500,000. The campaign came up a little short of that, the bundler said, but DeSantis did raise at least $400,000 — more than…
- Donald Trump has raised the most money from Wisconsin residents so far in the presidential race, with $244,142.
- Nikki Haley is the surprising second-highest Republican fundraiser in Wisconsin, collecting $139,595.
- Ron DeSantis follows closely behind Haley, with $126,720 in donations from Wisconsin supporters.
- Joe Biden has received $37,584 from state donors.
Wisconsin residents are actively supporting their preferred presidential candidates by donating substantial amounts of money. Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, and Ron DeSantis are leading the Republican pack in terms of fundraising. However, political experts believe there is still a great deal of campaign funding to be collected before the 2024 general election.