By Philip Elliott
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — John McCain's presidential bid won South Carolina by 9 percentage points four years ago. The 2008 Republican nominee carried Georgia by 5 percentage points. He won Alabama, too, and by 21 percentage points.
Yet, this year's GOP vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, is campaigning in these reliably Republican states — to pick up cash more than extra votes. The late-in-the-race detour to noncompetitive states is the latest evidence of the new reality facing presidential contenders: These campaigns cost a fortune.
Ryan was scheduled to meet privately with donors in Greenville, S.C., on Friday before racing to Alabama for a second fundraiser. Two days earlier, he sat down with supporters who had shelled out as much as $25,000 to share their thoughts with the candidate.
The Wisconsin congressman tried to make light of the fact he was having a fundraiser this late in the campaign in a state that is all but certain to give its electoral votes to Romney.
"You probably don't see all the ads, do you? If we're advertising in Georgia, we've got an issue," Ryan said to laughter.
But the late-stage fundraising has been something of an anomaly in presidential campaigns. Traditionally, a candidate has been handed a fixed pot of money to run a campaign from the nominating convention through Election Day.
Four years ago, however, Democrat Barack Obama broke his pledge to accept federal dollars and opted to raise all the money himself. He shattered fundraising records and left then-rival McCain constrained by his fixed budget.
This year, both Obama and Romney opted out of the publicly financed systems, allowing them to continue raising seemingly limitless money that, Ryan says, helps pay for television ads and staff in battleground states.
"There is so much clutter out there. If you come into one of these battleground states, you can't run away from it," Ryan told some 600 people at a reception. Tickets started at $500, a photo with the congressman cost $10,000 and a roundtable meeting with him set donors back $25,000.
"The reason I'm thanking you for your generosity," he added, "is because it helps us cut through this clutter."
Ryan aides said Friday would be his final day spent raising cash for the campaign. Ryan was heading to Ohio to meet up with Romney for an evening rally that would begin a two-day, 400-mile bus tour through the state that is increasingly the lynchpin of both Romney's and Obama's strategy.