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Oregon Republicans Reflect As Trump Becomes Apparent Nominee

Trump supporter Donald Sawyer shows his colors on the Sunday before Idaho Republicans vote in their presidential primary.
Tom Banse
/
Northwest News Network
Trump supporter Donald Sawyer shows his colors on the Sunday before Idaho Republicans vote in their presidential primary.

"He lived a hardscrabble life in a rusty steel town. John Kasich never gives up."

An hour after that campaign ad aired on Portland radio Wednesday afternoon, Ohio Gov. John Kasich did give up, pulling the plug on his presidential campaign. 

Now that Donald Trump’s last two GOP rivals have dropped out, Republicans in the northwest are re-aligning. Oregon and Washington have presidential primaries this month. Campaign appearances in the northwest for Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz had just been announced Tuesday. Cruz's events were quickly canceled after he suspended his campaign.

The news didn't faze the Portland host of the Lars Larson show. He endorsed Trump two months ago.

"When it comes to cutting business deals," Larson told his audience, "I don't think anybody ever gets the better of a business deal with Donald Trump."

Disappointment from a Kasich supporter

Of course, not all Oregon conservatives are in Trump's camp. Former GOP state lawmaker Bruce Starr served on Kasich's Oregon leadership team. Starr says Kasich's decision to end his campaign came as a disappointment.

"There's no question from my perspective that Governor Kasich's the best choice to be president of the United States," Starr said, calling Kasich "the only Republican candidate that beats Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head."

Starr says he won't rule out eventually throwing his support behind Trump, who is assured of the GOP nomination by this point. But Starr says to get his support, the New York billionaire would have to surround himself with seasoned, high-quality advisors.

"If he does that, then not only can I see myself voting for him," said Starr, "but I see potentially other Republicans who quite honestly were supporting other candidates...voting for him."

Kasich-Cruz alliance wasn't enough

Kasich made news in Oregon last month when he and Ted Cruz announced a deal. Kasich’s campaign pulled back in Indiana in exchange for Cruz stepping aside in Oregon and New Mexico. That didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Cruz supporters in Oregon such as GOP state Representative Bill Post. But with Cruz's sudden departure from the race, Post knew it was time to act.

In a live internet broadcast Wednesday, Post took a Ted Cruz campaign sign off his pickup truck.

"Okay, well there it is," Post told his viewers. "Another failed candidacy. It seems like I'm doing this all the time."

Post had been a supporter of Rick Perry until the former Texas Governor dropped out. With his second choice also gone, Post told viewers he isn't on what he called the "Trump train." But he said he was afraid that Republicans who dislike Trump won't vote at all and will therefore hurt GOP candidates in state and local races in the fall.

"If you are so angry at the Donald Trump nomination that it makes you stay home for all the other elections," Post said, "you are worse than Donald Trump."

A poll of Republican voters in Oregon showed Trump easily outpacing Kasich and Cruz last month. But Oregon as whole isn’t likely to throw its support behind Trump in November. The last Republican to win the state's electoral college votes was Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.