PORTLAND, Ore. — It's unusual for the president to visit Oregon. It's not typically a battle ground state, and it's 2,800 miles away from Washington, D.C.
Oregon has had only had a handful of presidential visits over the years--President Obama visited only five times during eight years in office, President Trump never bothered. But 2022 has now clocked two visits from President Biden.
The president arrived at Portland International Airport just after 6 p.m. Friday, descending the steps of Air Force One with a white bag in his hand. Inside was a cupcake for Representative Suzanne Bonamici, for her birthday.
It's the president's second visit to Portland in six months. With only a little over three weeks before Election Day, Biden is trying to drum up Democratic support for Tina Kotek's campaign for governor, as she faces the toughest struggle Democrats have seen in reliably-blue Oregon in decades.
The sky above Portland International Airport glowed pink as the sun set amid some of the worst air quality in the nation from nearby wildfires. Elsewhere in the city, Portland Police were responding to two shootings—one of them a person killed near Holladay Park in Northeast Portland, the other a police shooting in downtown Portland at Southwest 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street.
A smaller group greeted the president than the Democratic fanfare that met him during his trip in April. Governor Kate Brown was on a trip to Asia. Only Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Birthday Girl Representative Suzanne Bonamici greeted the president at the airport, along with commanders from Oregon's Air National Guard.
Merkley and Bonamici got to ride in style with Biden in "The Beast," the president's official car, a veritable fortress of a Cadillac limousine. The motorcade cruised down a closed I-205 to Southeast Powell Boulevard, and arrived just after 7 p.m. to the SEIU Local 49, where volunteers were phone-banking for Tina Kotek. He arrived carrying a box from Sesame Donuts.
PHOTOS: Biden's visit in Portland
"This is the most important off-year election since Roosevelt," Biden told the crowd. "What happens in the next 4-6 years is going to determine what happens for the next three or four generations. Not just America, but across the world."
Hand-in-hand with Kotek, Biden rallied volunteers to continue the push for votes, saying, "What a governor does matters. It matters. It matters, it matters, it matters!"
The governor's race has drawn national attention — Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan are nearly neck-and-neck in the polls, with unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson the wild card. Democrats are mustering all the support they can get for Kotek in the home stretch, and Biden is scheduled to appear at another event on Saturday afternoon.
Before that, Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech at the East Portland Community Center on lowering costs for American families. He reminded supporters at the phone-banking event Friday night of the work his administration has done toward that end—attempts to lower prescription drug prices and cap insulin prices.
"So much is at stake if we are able to keep the House and keep the Senate," he said. "We can continue to do the things that we've been doing, which are really going to change the country."
Kotek's opponents didn't let Biden's visit go by without getting a word in. On Twitter, Christine Drazan wrote, "Oregonians are tired of status quo politicians like Tina Kotek and Kate Brown, who have made life worse for families across this state. Bringing in a failing president isn’t going to save a failing candidate."
Betsy Johnson posted a video, thanking Biden for his visit because, she said, "Every time you do, Tina's tent cities get cleaned up a little bit more." She also urged Biden to talk with Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt about prosecuting people who are breaking the law.
Biden will spend the night at a hotel in downtown Portland. The event at the East Portland Community Center is set for noon on Saturday, followed by a reception for Kotek at 1:45. The president is scheduled to leave Portland at 2:50 p.m. to return to Delaware.