PORTLAND — Anyone who says the presidential campaigns ignore Oregon is flat out wrong.
They spend plenty of time here — looking for money, if not for votes.
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is the latest to hit up the campaign ATM in Portland, stopping Monday for a private luncheon to pick up cash for Mitt Romney’s presidential bid.
Like Romney’s three visits during the last 14 months, and President Barack Obama’s stop in July, he had no events for the nonpaying public.
That’s life for voters in a state that doesn’t swing. For campaigns focused on getting the 270 electoral votes they need to win, it just doesn’t make sense for either candidate to spend time campaigning in states such as Oregon that overwhelmingly favor one of them.
In brief remarks to about 200 donors at the Governor Hotel, Ryan lamented the Wisconsin football team’s loss to Oregon in last season’s Rose Bowl and to Oregon State in an upset game on Saturday. Then he challenged Obama to pick a side in a teachers strike in Chicago, saying “in a Romney-Ryan administration, we will not be ambiguous.”
Obama’s chief spokesman has said the president is urging both the teachers and the city to settle quickly.
Ryan talked up Romney’s accomplishments as a businessman, the leader of the troubled Salt Lake Olympics and as governor of Massachusetts.
“I have very rarely seen a time when the moment and the man meet so well like they do with Mitt Romney,” Ryan said.
Campaign officials declined to say how much money Ryan raised in Portland on Monday, but tickets cost between $1,000 for general admission and $25,000 for a private meal.
$4.5 million in contributions
Oregonians have donated more than $4.5 million to presidential campaigns during this election cycle, including money sent to Republicans who failed in their bids for the GOP nomination, according to Federal Election Commission records. Obama has raised $2.8 million here, and Romney has picked up $1 million.
There’s been very little recent public polling in Oregon, but the state is widely believed to be safe for Obama, who won its seven electoral votes by 16 percentage points in 2008. Democrats have carried the state in every presidential election since 1988, although not always by Obama’s comfortable margin. George W. Bush came within 7,000 votes against Al Gore in 2000.
Despite Oregon’s reputation as a cradle of liberalism, Republicans have long maintained that the state holds potential to turn their way. Outside liberal enclaves in Portland and Eugene, many people in rural and suburban Oregon are drawn to libertarian and small-government ideas espoused by Republicans such as Ryan and Ron Paul. But it’s been frustratingly out of reach. No Republican has won a statewide race since Gordon Smith was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002. He lost to Democrat Jeff Merkley six years later.