By David Siders and Torey Van Oot
dsiders@sacbee.com
Published: Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 – 7:05 am

Jeff Miller, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign chairman in California, was in Iowa with a handful of California lawmakers for last week’s caucuses. He may find himself in South Carolina when the race arrives there later this month.

He isn’t missing much back home.

“That June primary,” Miller said, “might as well be 100 years away.”

It sure feels like it.

While the Republican presidential campaigns fast-forward to New Hampshire on Tuesday and South Carolina on Jan. 21, hardly anyone in California is off the couch. Republicans here know the race may be over before they vote on June 5.

“Sadly, we are irrelevant,” said Celeste Greig, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly. “Come June, there will be a nominee. We will not have been at the table.”

Perry, who finished a distant fifth in Iowa, and Mitt Romney, who won, have relatively robust fundraising operations in California, and Newt Gingrich last month announced his selection of a state finance chairman here. Like President Barack Obama, the Republican candidates have raised millions of dollars in this donor-rich state.

But good luck finding a yard sign.

“Other than the cashectomy being performed by Romney and Perry, it’s been very quiet in terms of organization,” said Jon Fleischman, publisher of the conservative Flash Report blog.

Ron Paul spoke at the California Republican Party’s convention in September and won its straw poll, thanks to his crowd of youthful supporters and to a check written by the campaign to secure their convention voting privileges. Yet even he is doing very little on the ground.

“It’s way too early,” John Dennis, who is volunteering for Paul, said as he returned from Iowa to his home in San Francisco.

Eric Beach, state finance chairman for Gingrich, said the campaign will announce a political structure in California within weeks. But it is unclear whether that operation will be anything more than preparatory.

California’s presidential primary four years ago was in February. The state’s voters, if not a deciding factor, were at least afforded a taste of the buzz to which voters in many other states are accustomed. The Democratic primary election that year was an endurance contest between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said it was an example of a year in which California’s primary was too early – not too late – to be meaningful.

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