While Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s message has reverberated in some surprising places in South Jersey, Democrat Hillary Clinton has held the advantage in fundraising, according to the candidates’ most recent campaign reports.
Clinton outraised Trump $186,284 to $125,781 in Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic and southern Ocean counties over the past two years, according to Federal Election Commission data.
Look at where contributions have come from, and it’s easy to see where each candidate’s message has resonated.
Across three ZIP codes that cover Vineland, the state’s largest city geographically, Trump had one of his strongest showings in South Jersey with 53 donations, raising $9,210 compared with Clinton’s $9,433
Carol Kuhlen, of East Vineland, which is located in neighboring Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, says her support for Trump is personal.
Her husband, Gregory, was a Day One employee at the former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. He started out as an hourly worker and moved up the employment ladder, eventually becoming the casino’s entertainment director.
“I stayed home and became a full-time mom,” Kuhlen said. “It was a very good experience. (Trump) made my comfortable life possible.”
Kuhlen, 63, said she looked at her two donations to the Trump campaign as repayment for her husband’s career.
“He signed my husband’s paychecks,” she said. “It was the least I could do.”
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Clinton performed better than Trump in other, traditionally strong Democratic communities such as Atlantic City. Clinton’s biggest donors locally, Atlantic City residents — 18 of them — made a total of 277 for $10,494.
“I feel very strongly about the issues in this election, and Secretary Clinton is certainly the most qualified candidate,” said Clifford Elder, 64, of Atlantic City. “In conversations I’ve had, the majority are supporting Hillary.”
Elder said while he hears a wide range of opinions from people throughout the city, Clinton’s views seem to coincide with the city’s climate and demographics.
Likewise, Kuhlen believes there are obvious reasons many Vineland residents are supporting Trump.
“There are a lot of hard-working farmers out here,” Kuhlen said. “I imagine the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) is very important to them, as it is for us.”
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Trump also fared well in Wildwood and Hammonton, as well as in southern Ocean County.
South Jersey, with 212,684 registered Republicans and 182,194 registered Democrats, skews more conservative than the state as a whole, but despite that, in the four counties that make up The Press coverage area, Clinton dominated Trump in fundraising.
The contentious nature of the campaign has both helped and hindered the candidates in their fundraising efforts, said Sharon Schulman, executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.
“The contentiousness has made individuals more passionate about giving, especially smaller donors, Schulman wrote in an email. “And the use of social media for fundraising has given rise to a vehicle for the smaller, impassioned donors to give voice to their feelings.”
Trump did a better job scoring bigger donations, averaging $198 to Clinton’s $56.
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But while small donors make up an important part of the campaign narrative, the candidates themselves are usually focused on the big-money donors.
Despite New Jersey’s blue status, the state is still a fertile fundraising ground for Republicans, Schulman said. It was also a crowded year, with 17 Republicans vying for the nomination at one point.
“Republicans are able to raise the big-giver dollars here from high-income individuals,” she said. “In fact, going back many years, even as far as George H.W. Bush, New Jersey has had some of the top donors and people working on national party fundraising committees.”