It was nearly a big presidential week in Oregon, a moment projecting us to the center of the 2016 campaign, a time when the biggest phenomenon of the race was going to appear here. It was in line to be the biggest Oregon political story in years that didn’t involve sex or health insurance websites.
Last Wednesday, Donald Trump was scheduled to be in Oregon for a fund-raising event and a public rally, although his campaign never actually settled on where the rally was going to be; the Trump campaign had reportedly eliminated Portland, presumably on the grounds that there were too many people here. Then three people listed as sponsors of his Portland fund-raising event declared they had no idea how their names had gotten on the program.
Shortly afterward, the campaign announced that Trump’s Oregon appearances were cancelled, citing an unexpected visit to Louisiana 10 days before Trump was booked to appear here. The connection wasn’t clear, unless the campaign only had space for one crawfish state. But it was hard not to take it personally, like your prom date suddenly remembering that she had to wash her hair that evening.
A promised major campaign occasion in Oregon ended up as No Trump Day.
And Trump had told us he cared. In fact, he’d been making passionate overtures to the entire West Coast.
“We’re going to come in — we’re going to work California hard,” Trump promised in Sacramento June 1. “We’re going to work the state of Washington hard. We may even work Oregon hard because we’ve been really treated up there great.”
Be still, our Gore-Tex covered hearts.
Presumably, “really treated up there great,” refers to Trump’s single appearance here, in Eugene before the primary, when, indeed, nobody threw anything.
After the conventions, Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign head, told The Washington Post about Connecticut and Oregon, “Those are not states that are on my front burner, but (Clinton’s) going to have to put resources into those states in order to carry them.”
Trump even campaigned in Connecticut – although people did wonder if he’d somehow gotten lost.
And then, after he promised to show up here Wednesday, Trump stood us up in favor of Arizona, where he wanted to make a major immigration speech. Apparently, he had to explain his policy on immigration, because he’d only been talking about it non-stop for a year.
Reportedly, the Trump campaign has been pressured to focus campaigning on states he might carry. By most estimates, Trump has always had about as much chance of carrying Oregon as becoming pope – although he would, of course, be a fantastic, amazing, unbelievable pope, and everybody – everybody! – wants him to take the job.
But Tuesday, he did hold his scheduled rally in Everett, Wash., where his prospects might not be much better – although Trump did promise the crowd that he would carry the state, and raised more than $1 million at a fund-raising event. Apparently, it was a busy political day, because somehow none of the Washington statewide GOP candidates could make the event.
In Everett, Trump challenged claims of racism by pointing out that Republicans were the party of Lincoln, while Democrats had supported slavery.
He could have said that here. We like 19th century history, and back then Oregon was even a state, which Washington wasn’t.
Possibly warming up for his immigration speech, and his meeting with the president of Mexico (the day when he was supposed to be here), Trump addressed immigration in Everett by reciting an old rock song about the dangers of taking in a snake.
He could have done that in Oregon.
We like rock songs.
But then Wednesday, in a joint press conference with the president of Mexico after the meeting that replaced his appearance here, the Republican nominee declared, “I happen to have a tremendous feeling for Mexican Americans … Spectacular, spectacular hard-working people. I have such great respect for them and their strong values of family, faith and community.”
Nothing about snakes.
Or about how he’ll make Mexico pay for the wall.
Then Trump flew to Phoenix Wednesday evening and told the crowd, “Mexico will pay for the wall, 100 percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re gonna pay for the wall.”
He also repeated that all undocumented immigrants would have to leave, and that he would have a special deportation force to remove what he called 2 million undocumented criminals: “Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone.”
Once again, there’s absolutely no reason Trump couldn’t have made those speeches here.
If there’s one thing Oregonians understand, it’s confusion.
NOTE: This column appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, 9/4/16.