WASHINGTON — When it comes to Republican presidential candidates, Ray P. Oden Jr. is hedging his bets.

The 79-year-old retired cotton farmer and his wife are top Louisiana contributors to the campaigns of four major Republican candidates, making 17 donations worth $20,000. Oden views it as a critical investment.

“I’m pushing the ones that I think are the most conservative,” said Oden, of Shreveport. “I just hope that one makes it.”

Oden is an active giver on the state level. He has contributed $18,300 mostly to Republican candidates, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, according to the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

According to analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, on the presidential level Oden is backing U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas; U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Georgia; and former Godfather’s Pizza executive Herman Cain.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Washington government watchdog has analyzed all contributions over $200 to the candidates.

Most Louisiana donors have bet on state neighbor and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry received 239 donations from Louisiana residents adding up to $490,000.

One of the top contributors to his campaign was Kurt Crosby, of Crosby Tugs LLC in Galliano. The marine transport company owner, his wife and father each contributed $2,500 to Perry. Crosby said he sees Perry as the answer to the nation’s economic woes.

“I feel Rick Perry represents what we really need as a leader,” Crosby said. “He would be a leader in pro-life and creating jobs, especially in the oil and gas industry for our area.”

Crosby, however, expressed concern about Perry’s downward slide in national polls.

“Let’s just see what happens in the next few weeks and months,” Crosby said.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hauled in $278,500 from Louisiana through 172 contributions, according to the center’s analysis.

Charles Lamar, the Baton Rouge retired attorney for Lamar Advertising and an investor, donated $3,000 to Romney, and sees the candidate as the one with the best chance of defeating President Barack Obama.

“I think Romney is the only Republican likely to win, because he is attracting independents,” Lamar said. “A lot of the other candidates are strong with the base, but it’s going to take a little more than that.”

Obama raised about $92,500 from 225 contributions listing a Louisiana address, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis. Obama received 782,989 votes in 2008 but lost to Republican candidate John McCain by almost 19 percentage points in Louisiana balloting.

Michelle Obama was in New Orleans last week for a $5,000-a-plate fundraiser.

State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said she viewed the Obama event last week as the kickoff to his Louisiana campaign. Peterson was a point person in Louisiana for Obama’s 2008 election campaign, and said she would do so again this year.

“The election is a year out,” Peterson said. “There is going to be a lot more activity.”

Joshua Force was Obama’s top Louisiana giver and the only one making the maximum $5,000 contribution. The New Orleans lawyer went to Harvard Law School with Obama and hopes his friend is given a second term.

“He’s got a big challenge but hopefully, he’ll get another four years to address it,” Force said.

Paul received 164 Louisiana donations amounting to $76,300. One of the contributors was Walter Block, an economic professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, who gave $3,000.

Block said he believes Paul will be the next president.

“You look at the other candidates and they are up one day and down the next,” Block said. “I think Romney and Paul will be the last two standing.”

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer was not included in the Center for Responsive Politics analysis because he has limited contributions to $100 per donor.

Roemer, however, received 234 contributions from Louisiana worth $29,949, according to his most recent Federal Election Commission report.

Roemer picked up six $100 contributions from the Valiollahi family, owners of University Car Care in Baton Rouge.

Mark Valiollahi praised Roemer for his honesty and integrity. Valiollahi said he is not concerned about critics who say Roemer doesn’t have a chance to be president.

“You have to try and see,” Valiollahi said.

Bachmann, of Minnesota, received 44 Louisiana contributions totaling $33,800, according to the center. Gingrich collected $41,300 through 49 donations.

William Goldring, chairman of the Sazerac Company Inc. spirits distributor in New Orleans, was Gingrich’s top contributor in the state with a $5,000 maximum donation. Goldring also contributed $5,000 to Romney.

Goldring declined to elaborate on his financial backing of the candidates and said simply: “I support good government.”

Cain received 47 donations worth $25,777, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis. Cain’s top contributor in the state was Oden, who gave $5,000.

Oden said he isn’t disturbed about recent allegations that Cain sexually harassed three women. Oden said he doesn’t see the flap hurting Cain’s chances.

“I think it’s a shame because I don’t think there is much to it,” Oden said. “I think he has a 50-50 chance with one of the other guys.”

Contributions to all federal candidates can be viewed on the center’s website: http://www.opensecrets.org.

Oden said he intends to stay as active as he can in the race.

“I just hope my money lasts,” Oden said. “We still got a year to go.”