BY JIM MILLER
SACRAMENTO BUREAU
jmiller@pe.com

Published: 22 October 2011 05:59 PM

The presidential election is more than a year away, but candidates for the White House already are collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from residents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Through Sept. 30, the region produced $365,000 for Democrat Barack Obama and Republicans trying to unseat him in 2012. Obama has collected the most, $153,000, followed by Republican Mitt Romney, who has raised about $85,000 in the first three quarters of the year.

The haul is a sliver of what candidates have raised nationally and statewide. It’s also significantly less than what the region had generated at a similar point during the last presidential election cycle. In that campaign, however, there was no incumbent, and multiple candidates had a shot at the nomination.

2012 presidential race campaign contributions

The Inland sum is certain to increase in the coming months as candidates advance through the primaries and into a general-election race. Neither Obama nor the eventual Republican nominee are expected to accept public financing, freeing them to continue to fundraise for a contest some have predicted will consume close to $1 billion.

“There’s a lot of money still on the table,” said professor Jack Pitney, who teaches politics at Claremont McKenna College.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has collected most of his $17.2million from Texas donors. Romney’s $32.2 million in fundraising has been concentrated in the Northeast and among the financial sector.

“Sooner or later, Perry and Romney are going to be tapping out those sources, and they’re going to have to look elsewhere,” Pitney said. “The Riverside and San Bernardino areas would be a natural source of fundraising activities.”

The 4 million-person region is closely split politically. Republicans outnumber Democrats in Riverside County, and Democrats hold a narrow registration lead in San Bernardino County. Republican George W. Bush easily carried both counties in 2004, but Obama prevailed in 2008.

Obama has no primary competition. For Republicans, there is no clear front-runner who can tap into the region’s network of campaign contributors. The region’s struggling economy also has sapped the donor community.

Perry has raised about $34,000 from about two dozen Inland donors. One of them is Mary Saniga of Riverside, who gave $300 to Perry late last month.

“He’s a strong guy, he’s got some backbone,” Saniga said of the three-term governor, adding that Perry shares her conservative values.

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