2024 GOP Presidential Hopefuls Clash in Milwaukee: Trump Absent, Contenders Face Opportunity

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The initial clash among Republican presidential hopefuls for the 2024 nomination is set to unfold in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Wednesday evening. Notably absent from the lineup is the leading candidate, Donald Trump. 

His refusal to endorse the GOP’s loyalty pledge, emphasizing his substantial lead in the polls, renders him ineligible. Without Trump’s dominating presence at the Fiserv Forum, Fox moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum may anticipate a smoother event, with contenders like Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence expected to adhere to the rules.

In the absence of Trump, candidates have an opportunity to distinguish themselves before a primetime TV audience, free from the shadow of the former president’s influence, which has cast a significant imprint on the party for nearly a decade. 

Whether participants will risk criticizing the twice-impeached, four-times-indicted former president and potentially alienating his devoted base. 

So far, only ex-New Jersey governor Chris Christie has dared to do so, facing relentless teasing and taunting on Truth Social for his efforts.

As we approach Wednesday’s highly anticipated event, here’s a breakdown of the financial backgrounds of the participants, along with a brief overview of the paths that led to their wealth.

Noteworthy candidates such as Will Hurd, Perry Johnson, Francis Suarez, and Larry Elder are excluded from this guide. Currently, they still need to meet the criteria required to secure positions on the debate stage.

Doug Burgum

Doug Burgum

The governor of North Dakota, viewed as a contender with slim odds for the GOP nomination, reportedly possesses a net worth of $1.1 billion, as per Yahoo! Finance. 

This places him as the second wealthiest among state leaders, trailing behind only JB Pritzker of Illinois, who is a Democrat.

Mr. Burgum’s wealth is attributed to the sale of his technology company, Great Plains Software, to Microsoft in 2001, following an initial public offering. 

Originating in the 1980s, the company experienced growth, fueled in part by a consistent influx of engineering graduates from North Dakota State University in Fargo, located in close proximity to Great Plains’s headquarters.

Subsequently, the candidate assumed the role of chairman for the boards of Atlassian and SuccessFactors, two additional IT services providers. 

Furthermore, he founded the Kilbourne Group, a local real estate development entity, and played a role in co-founding Arthur Ventures, a software-focused venture capital firm.

Chris Christie

Chris Christie

Estimates regarding the former New Jersey governor’s net worth vary, with some suggesting it could reach as high as $19 million, while the consensus tends to settle closer to $5 million.

Mr. Christie obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Delaware in 1984, followed by a juris doctorate from Seton Hall University School of Law three years later. 

He began his legal career at the firm of Dughi, Hewit, and Palatucci in Cranford, New Jersey, eventually becoming a partner in 1993. In 2002, he was appointed as the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey by George W. Bush, having previously served on Mr. Bush’s election campaign in 2001. Christie held the position until 2008 before successfully campaigning for the governor’s mansion.

Once a political ally of Mr. Trump, the relationship between the two has soured, and they are now regarded as bitter enemies.

Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis

The individual with the least wealth among the candidates is Florida’s controversial governor, initially positioned as a formidable challenger to Mr. Trump. 

However, he has struggled to garner the necessary support and frequently appeared uneasy in interactions with the public during campaign events, projecting an image of social awkwardness and insincerity.

As of the 2022 state disclosure, Mr. DeSantis’s net worth is reported at $1.17 million. The disclosure highlighted that his $1,174,331.07 governor’s salary in the Sunshine State was notably supplemented by a $1.25 million advance from publisher HarperCollins for his second book, “The Courage To Be Free.”

These figures, though relatively modest, are associated with a candidate whose prominence has risen significantly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

His well-publicized disputes with the Walt Disney Company and the implementation of stringent anti-LGBT+ policies in Florida’s schools have consistently garnered national attention. 

In contrast, his predecessor in the role, Rick Scott, boasted a net worth of $255 million.

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley

The former South Dakota governor and US ambassador to the United Nations during Donald Trump’s administration boasts a net worth of $8 million, as reported by Forbes.

Upon her departure from the Trump administration in 2018, the publication notes that her parents faced financial difficulties due to an ill-advised investment in a local strip mall. 

She found herself compelled to bail them out repeatedly with personal loans to prevent the risk of losing the family home on Lake Murray near Lexington.

However, since that time, she has successfully accumulated substantial wealth through various avenues. Engaging in after-dinner speaking engagements for businesses and political organizations, she earned a noteworthy $2.3 million from just 11 such events in 2022, according to Forbes. 

Additionally, she authored two books on leadership and assumed positions on the boards of several companies, including Boeing and the United Homes Group. These endeavors ultimately enabled her to resolve her family’s debt issues and secure their financial future.

Asa Hutchinson

Asa Hutchinson

Hailing from a farm in Gravette near Bentonville, the former governor of Arkansas currently holds an estimated net worth of $1.5 million.

As per Forbes, a significant portion of his wealth is invested in his residence, purchased 13 years ago for $514,000 and currently valued at approximately $1.2 million. 

Additionally, the politician has pensions from the federal government and the state of Arkansas, collectively estimated at around $300,000.

Mike Pence

Mr. Trump’s former vice president, who was once a congressman and governor of Indiana, took nearly two decades of dedicated public service to attain millionaire status. However, since leaving office, he has quadrupled his fortune, currently estimated at $4 million, as reported by Forbes.

In 2019, Mr. Pence, a favored figure among evangelicals, surpassed the $1 million mark in federal and state pensions. Subsequently, since leaving office in January 2021, he has significantly boosted his wealth by embarking on a public speaking tour. 

Between January 2022 and June 2023, he delivered 32 addresses, accumulating $3.4 million.

During this period, Mr. Pence authored a memoir titled “So Help Me God” and received a substantial advance. His wife, Karen, also secured an advance for her book, “When It’s Your Turn To Serve.” 

The couple invested a portion of their wealth, spending $1.9 million on a five-acre estate in Columbus, Indiana. 

Additionally, they ventured into the stock market, investing in blue-chip companies such as Apple, Pfizer, and Lockheed Martin.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy

The second-wealthiest candidate on the debate stage, Vivek Ramaswamy, holds an Ivy League education and began his career as an investment partner at Wall Street hedge fund QVT Financial.

Afterward, he founded the successful biotech company Roivant Sciences in 2014 and later established the “anti-woke” index fund provider Strive Asset Management in 2022.

Forbes reports his current net worth at $630 million, drawing parallels between him and other affluent investors turned political figures such as Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, and Mr. Trump himself.

In addition to his business ventures, akin to some of his Republican counterparts, Ramaswamy is also an author of several books, including titles like “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam” and “Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit and the Path Back to Excellence.”

Tim Scott

Tim Scott

The South Carolina senator, aspiring to become the second Black president of the United States and the first unmarried man in the White House since 1886, reportedly possesses a net worth of $3.88 million.

Born into poverty and raised by a single mother in North Charleston, Mr. Scott’s fortunes changed when he found a mentor in local businessman John Moniz while working at a cinema. 

Encouraged by Moniz, he pursued his ambitions, transitioning to roles as an insurance agent and financial adviser. 

Eventually, he founded his own insurance company, Tim Scott Allstate. His political journey began with election to the Charleston City Council in 1995, leading to his subsequent election to the Senate in 2011.

Mr. Scott’s congressional salary amounts to $174,000 annually, and he reportedly received a $184,167 advance from HarperCollins for his memoir.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

The former president, facing four indictments, has declared his non-participation in the initial GOP debate. Nevertheless, his personal wealth remains a subject of intense speculation and conversation among the 2024 candidates, shrouded in a degree of mystery.

Forbes has approximated Mr. Trump’s wealth at approximately $2.5 billion, reflecting a decrease from $3.2 billion in 2022. During his candidacy and tenure in the White House, Mr. Trump consistently resisted revealing his personal finances for public examination, falsely asserting an inability to do so due to an ongoing IRS audit—a claim devoid of any legal impediment.

The Trump Organization, led by Mr. Trump, retains ownership of real estate and golf clubs both in the United States and internationally. Additionally, his social media platform, Truth Social, was initially valued at $730 million but has experienced a decline in worth, dropping by approximately $550 million, as reported by Fox News.

Born into affluence within a wealthy New York family, Mr. Trump inherited an estimated $40 million from his deceased father, the real estate developer Fred Trump. 

Nonetheless, the precise value of this inheritance faced a setback on January 26 when Mr. Trump was directed to pay $83 to U.S. author E. Jean Carroll. This legal action stemmed from defamatory statements he had made about the former Elle magazine writer.

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