By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — John McCain won Alabama by 21 percentage points. The 2008 Republican nominee won South Carolina by 9 percentage points. And McCain carried Georgia by 5 percentage points four years ago.
Yet GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is campaigning in these reliably Republican states — looking not so much for extra votes as for cash. The late-in-the-race detour to reliably Republican states is the latest evidence of the reality facing presidential contenders: These campaigns cost a fortune.
"What you're doing is you are helping us execute a campaign where, in these critical battleground states, we are giving the country what it deserves — which is the people of this nation get the right to make the choice about what kind of country they want to have," Ryan said at a reception in Huntsville Friday. Tickets cost from $1,000 to $25,000.
During a midday luncheon that organizers said raised $1 million, Ryan used the word "generosity" at least four times before the crowd of 300 supporters.
In the morning, Ryan met privately with donors in Greenville, S.C., before boarding his campaign plane, his wife and three young children in tow for his brief stop in Alabama. While the grown-ups mingled with donors, his 7-, 9- and 10-year-old children visited the nearby U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Ryan said his kids were out of school because of parent-teacher conferences.
Even those organizing the event agreed it was unusual to visit solidly Republican states. "It's not like Alabama is a swing state," said Linda Maynor, a GOP fundraiser.
The dynamics were similar two days earlier, when Ryan sat down with supporters who had shelled out as much as $25,000 to share thoughts during a stopover in Georgia.
The Wisconsin congressman tried to make light of the fact he was having a fundraiser late in the campaign in a state that seems 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 in northern Atlanta.
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 own fixed budget.
This year, both Obama and Romney opted out of the publicly financed system, allowing them to keep raising seemingly limitless amounts 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 about 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 likely be his final day of raising cash for the campaign before heading to the battleground state of Ohio for an evening rally before Ryan begins a two-day, 400-mile bus tour through the state.