Democrat Barack Obama touched down tonight in Portland just long enough to whip up local support for his presidential bid and collect about $200,000 in contributions.
Obama, running second in most national polls behind Hillary Clinton, spoke to a fired-up crowd of about 4,000 who paid at least $25 each to attend his appearance at the Oregon Convention Center. He pledged to start pulling troops out of Iraq, pass major health care reform and require better fuel efficiencies in cars immediately after taking office.
"Too many in Washington view politics as a game," the U.S. senator from Illinois said. "We don't have time to play games."
Obama said he would bring a new, more optimistic outlook to the White House, describing himself as "guilty" of being a "hope-monger." He said he would focus on the needs of people, not cronies and lobbyists.
Obama is banking on Oregon in both senses of the word. He needs every dollar he can raise to keep his presidential dreams alive should he falter in the kickoff primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire. And, if the race stays competitive after the early surge of primaries, Obama will rely on Oregon's maverick voting history to give him an edge.
Most campaign watchers agreed that the main purpose of the visit was to score some campaign cash quickly and efficiently. Obama sandwiched the Portland stop between trips to San Francisco and Santa Barbara, Calif., where he is scheduled to hold a fundraiser with TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.
Because of its late presidential primary -- May 20, 2008, or 47th in the nation -- "Oregon is utterly irrelevant in the nominating process," said Tim Hibbitts, an independent Portland pollster.
True enough, said state Rep. Larry Galizio, a Tigard Democrat who is backing Obama. But a visit is a visit, and Oregonians will remember that Obama came through town.
Oregon has not been a magnet for presidential candidates, although a few have breezed through. Among Democrats, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich have made stops. Former President Clinton came to town to raise money for his wife.
Republican visitors include Rudy Giuliani, who stopped at a downtown Portland deli in mid-June on his way to a private fundraiser, and Mitt Romney, who had a little-publicized private fundraiser earlier in the year.