The first debate between the contenders to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2024 will finally take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Wednesday evening – without the front-runner.
Donald Trump’s decision not to sign the GOP’s loyalty pledge, a vow to support the eventual winner, renders him ineligible and follows months of his complaining that he should not have to take part because he is so far ahead of the pack in the polls.
Without his blustering presence on stage at the Fiserv Forum, Fox moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum should have a much more straightforward time of it, with the likes of Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Mike Pence more likely to fall in line and adhere to the rules.
But the participants do have a chance to distinguish themselves in front of a primetime TV audience and outside of Mr Trump’s outsized influence, which has loomed so large over the party for the better part of a decade now.
How many will dare to criticise the twice-impeached, four-times-indicted former president and risk alienating his diehard base remains to be seen but, so far, only ex-New Jersey governor Chris Christie has attempted to do so – and been ruthlessly teased and taunted on Truth Social for his trouble.
Ahead of Wednesday’s showdown, here’s a guide to the personal wealth of those taking part, with a brief outline of how they made their fortunes.
North Dakota’s governor, considered a long-shot candidate for the GOP nomination, has a reported net worth of $1.1bn, according to Yahoo! Finance, making him the second wealthiest state leader behind only JB Pritzker of Illinois, a Democrat.
Mr Burgum’s fortune is said to come from the sale of his tech business Great Plains Software to Microsoft in 2001 following an initial public offering. The company emerged in the 1980s and grew with the help of a steady supply of engineering students who joined its ranks after graduating from North Dakota State University in Fargo, whose campus was situated close to Great Plains’s headquarters.
Since then, the candidate has served as chairman of the boards of Atlassian and SuccessFactors, two more IT services providers, and founded local real estate developer the Kilbourne Group and co-founded the software venture capital outfit Arthur Ventures.
Mr Christie graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1984 and subsequently earned his juris doctorate from Seton Hall University School of Law three years later.
He subsequently joined the firm of Dughi, Hewit and Palatucci in Cranford, New Jersey, was made a partner in 1993 and was subsequently chosen to be the new United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey by George W Bush in 2002 (having served Mr Bush’s election campaign in 2001), serving until 2008 and thereafter campaigning successfully for the governor’s mansion.
Once an ally of Mr Trump’s, the two men are now bitter enemies.
The least wealthy name on the list is that of Florida’s controversial governor, who had initially promised to pose a serious challenge to Mr Trump but who has subsequently failed to pick up the support needed and repeatedly looked uncomfortable meeting members of the public at campaign events, cutting a socially awkward and insincere figure.
Mr DeSantis’s net worth was revealed by a state disclosure filed for 2022 that valued him at $1.17m and reported that his $1,174,331.07 salary as the Sunshine State’s governor had been significantly supplemented by the receipt of a $1.25m advance from the publisher HarperCollins for the writing of his second book, The Courage To Be Free.
Those numbers remain comparatively modest for a candidate whose profile has only grown since the Covid-19 pandemic, his spats with the Walt Disney Company and implementation of draconian anti-LGBT+ policies in Florida’s schools regularly making national headlines. By contrast, Mr DeSantis’s predecessor in the role, Rick Scott, had a net worth of $255m.
The former South Dakota governor and US ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump has an $8m net worth, according to Forbes.
When she left the Trump administration in 2018, the publication reports, her parents were in dire straits financially after making an ill-advised investment in a local strip mall and she was forced to repeatedly bail them out with personal loans or risk losing the family home on Lake Murray near Lexington.
Since then, however, she has amassed a considerable fortune from after-dinner speaking engagements to businesses and political organisations, earning $2.3m from just 11 such events in 2022, Forbes states.
She wrote two books on leadership in the same interval and served on the board of several companies, including Boeing and the United Homes Group, ultimately making enough money to resolve her family’s debt problems and secure their future.
The former governor of Arkansas grew up on a farm in Gravette, near Bentonville and is now worth an estimated $1.5m.
According to Forbes, most of his wealth is tied up in his house, which he bought 13 years ago for $514,00 and which is now worth around $1.2m. The politician also has an estimated $300,000 worth of pensions from the federal government and the state of Arkansas.
It took Mr Trump’s estranged former vice president, once a congressman and governor of Indiana, almost two decades of public service to become a millionaire but he has quadrupled his fortune since leaving office, according to Forbes, and is currently worth an estimated $4m.
Mr Pence, a favourite among evangelicals, passed the $1m-mark in federal and state pensions in 2019 but has made $3.4m since leaving office in January 2021 by undertaking a public speaking tour, making 32 addresses between January 2022 and June 2023 to wrack up that sum.
He has also published a memoir, So Help Me God, in the same period and received a generous advance, as did his wife Karen for her own book When It’s Your Turn To Serve. The couple have since spent $1.9m on a five-acre estate in Columbus, Indiana, and invested in blue-chip companies on the stock market such as Apple, Pfizer and Lockheed Martin.
The second-richest candidate on the debate stage, the Ivy League-educated Vivek Ramaswamy worked as an investment partner at Wall Street hedge fund QVT Financial before founding a successful biotech company, Roivant Sciences, in 2014 and then the “anti-woke” index fund provider Strive Asset Management in 2022.
He now has a net worth of $630m, according to Forbes, which likens him to other super-rich investors who have recently taken the political plunge like Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and Mr Trump himself.
Like several of his Republican rivals, he has also published a number of books, including 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.
The South Carolina senator, aiming to become only the second Black president of the United States and the first single man to occupy the White House since 1886, reportedly has a net worth of $3.88m.
Originally raised in poverty by a single mother in North Charleston, Mr Scott found a mentor in the shape of local businessman John Moniz while working at a cinema. The latter encouraged him to pursue his ambitions and he was soon working as an insurance agent and as a financial adviser, eventually starting his own insurance company, Tim Scott Allstate, before being elected to Charleston City Council in 1995 and then the Senate in 2011.
Mr Scott’s congressional salary is worth $174,000 a year and he was also reportedly paid a $184,167 advance by HarperCollins for his own memoir.
The four-time indicted former president has said he is not taking part in the first GOP debate, but his personal wealth is the most dissected and discussed of all the 2024 candidates and remains something of a mystery.
Forbes has estimated Mr Trump’s wealth at around $2.5bn, down from $3.2bn in 2022.
But while a candidate and in the White House Mr Trump refused to open up his personal finances for public scrutiny, falsely claiming he could not as he was under audit by the IRS. There was never anything preventing him from doing so.
Mr Trump’s company The Trump Organization owns real estate and golf clubs in the US and abroad. Meanwhile, his social media platform Truth Social was once estimated to be worth $730m but has dropped in value by around $550m, reported Fox News.
Mr Trump was of course born into a wealthy New York family and inherited an estimated $40m from his late real estate developer father, Fred Trump.