AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat KingsAnd with no winner apparent for either party yet- and states leapfrogging one another to get the jump on early primaries – candidates have put a premium on raising big money. “By the end of this, there will have been more money put into this race than ever before,” said Massie Rich, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group that tracks campaign contributions. Rich estimated that when all is said and done in the 2008 race, the candidates will have raised at least $1 billion, the first time that mark will have been passed. And if previous years are an indication, 10 percent to 15 percent of that money will come from California. “They’re raising more, the stakes are higher and they’ve got to raise it faster. California is one of the pots of gold,” said USC political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. WASHINGTON – Presidential contenders are digging deeper into Californians’ pockets than ever before, already raising more than $50 million in the Golden State even before campaigns get aggressively under way. The tally so far amounts to nearly 70 percent of the $76 million raised in California during the entire 2004 campaign cycle and virtually assures contributions this election year will surpass previous fundraising, according to campaign records. The massive donations come as the state’s early Feb. 5 primary has added new clout to California and spurred a renewed candidate focus on the region. Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have already raised a combined $25 million from California. Four years ago, Sen. John Kerry raised about $36 million from the state throughout his entire campaign. There’s a similar trend among Republicans. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have raised $11 million from the Golden State – more than half of everything George W. Bush took from California in 2004. Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has raised $3.7 million from the state – about 16 percent of his total contributions. “McCain jokes that he spends a lot of time in San Diego to visit his constituents,” Jeffe said, noting that even with his overall fundraising lag, the Arizona senator remains popular in California. Jeffe noted that the record giving comes at a time when new campaign laws limit donations to $2,300 per candidate, per campaign – for a total of $4,600 between the primary and general election. “They’re raising that much even with a new ceiling on campaign contributions,” she said. “That is really significant.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!