Despite sagging support in Washington state, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is expected to make appearances here Tuesday at a rally in Everett and a fundraiser at an undisclosed location in the Seattle area.
Pollsters give Trump little chance of winning the state in November. Washington has not chosen a Republican for President since it voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 — 32 years ago.
By coming to the traditionally liberal Seattle area, Trump is heading into largely enemy territory. The latest Elway poll on Aug. 15 gives Democrat Hillary Clinton a double-digit lead over Trump statewide (43 percent for Clinton vs. 24 percent for Trump). In Seattle's King County, the poll gives Clinton a 42-point lead: 55 percent to 13 percent.
Even much of the Republican establishment here has turned its back on Trump. U.S. Senate candidate Chris Vance and U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert told KUOW they won't attend the rally; the three other Republican members of the Washington Congressional delegation did not respond to KUOW's emails for this story and are not expected to attend the event.
A spokesperson for Bill Bryant, the Republican nominee for governor, said Bryant will be volunteering at a homeless shelter during Trump's rally.
None of that is stopping Trump from holding a rally in Washington.
"I think it's incredible we have a presidential candidate who's coming to Washington state three times to speak directly to the people in free public rallies," Washington state senator and Trump campaign spokesperson Doug Ericksen said. "That’s something you just don’t see from the Democratic candidate."
Democratic and Republican candidates campaigned here before the Washington caucus and primaries this spring. Clinton has not returned since March when she held a rally in Seattle and a $2,700-a-ticket fundraiser in Medina.
A successful campaign trip to Washington doesn’t depend on the will of the people, just the wallets of a few people.
The Trump campaign canceled this week’s trip to Portland, where the politics also lean to the left but the wealth is less concentrated than Seattle's. Reports last week of Trump's Washington visit also being canceled appear to be false as his campaign prepares for the back-to-back rally and fundraising events.
“He believes if he's going to be in Washington, he wants to meet with the people, not just go to the rich suburbs, get a check and cut out of town,” Ericksen said.
So far, Washington has not been fertile fundraising territory for Trump, either. Hillary Clinton has raised eight times more money in Washington state than Donald Trump has: $5.8 million for her against $700,000 for him, according to the Federal Election Commission.
'A heck of a lot of money in very little time'
University of Washington historian Margaret O’Mara, who studies presidential campaigns, said that even that disparity doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea for the candidate to come calling here.
“In a place like Seattle, a candidate of either party can do one event with a small group of very deep-pocketed donors and raise a heck of a lot of money in very little time," O’Mara said. "And that certainly seems to be what Trump is doing in his visit to Washington state, and he's just tagging on a rally as a bonus to that.”
O’Mara said in recent decades, it has been rare for either party’s nominee to visit our state, except to use the Seattle area’s concentrated wealth as a sort of ATM. Presidential rallies in Washington this close to the November election are almost unheard of.
Trump’s advisers have reportedly urged him to be more strategic with his time and knock off the rallies in states that are bright blue or deeply red.
O’Mara said Trump doesn’t sacrifice all that much when he visits non-battleground states like Washington because of his unusual ability to draw media coverage with incendiary rhetoric.
"He's going to places that aren't swing states, but he also is doing rallies not just for the people who are there in the airplane hangar or the auditorium that he's talking to," she said. "They are media events because wherever Trump goes, it becomes national news, and he can reach voters across the country.”
The big rally in Everett is expected to draw the big press coverage — and protests. The secretive fundraiser, not so much. The Trump campaign wouldn't even say which rich suburb it’s being held in.
But King County's Eastside appears to be fertile ground: three of the four ZIP codes in Washington state where residents gave more than $10,000 to the Trump campaign this year are on the Eastside.
The Everett rally is free, though tickets must be reserved in advance. The private fundraiser costs at least $2,700 to get in. For just $10,000, you can get a photo of yourself with Donald Trump.
Top Washington ZIP codes for donations to the Trump campaign:
(Areas with at least $5,000 in donations to the Trump campaign are shown. KUOW analysis of Federal Election Commission data by John Ryan.)