13,000 hear Presidential hopeful
by: L.E. BASKOW, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson formally endosed U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at a Portland rally Friday.

New Mexico Governor and former Democratic Presidential canddiate Bill Richardson formally endorsed U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at a Portland rally Friday morning.

Richardson made the endorsement while introducing Obama, who spoke to more than 13,000 people at Portland's Memorial Coliseum.

While talking about Obama's speech earlier in the week, that addressed his relationship with the Reverend Wright Jr., Richardson said while many advised Obama to duck the subject, 'He took a challenged and faced it head on. Here is a man that can take a challenge and turn it into a teachable moment for our country."

"I've been in politics a few years, and I've never seen anything like it," said Richardson.

How quickly the free tickets for the event were gobbled up said something about Obama's campaign.

That he decided to spend much of the next two days in Oregon says something else - that the state's May 20 Democratic presidential primary might be more important than most people thought.

Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who spoke before Obama took the stage, said this will be the first time Oregon's Presidential Primary will matter in 40 years.

'I think Portland and the United Stares are in dire need of change, and I think Obama is the one that can make that change happen,' said Sharon Donaldson shortly before the rally began.

Obama's visit is his second to Portland during his campaign. The first-term U.S. senator from Illinois spent a few hours here last September, speaking to about 4,000 people who paid at least $25 each to hear him at the Oregon Convention Center.

The Obama campaign announced this week's Portland visit late Tuesday, and more than 11,000 of the free tickets had been given out through the campaign's Web site by noon Wednesday, said Nick Shapiro, the campaign's Oregon communications director.

More than 1,000 tickets went in about an hour Wednesday afternoon at the Obama campaign's newly opened headquarters in Southeast Portland, Shapiro said.

By Wednesday evening, there were dozens of posts on the Craigslist Web site from people willing to pay for the tickets.

After his Portland speech, Obama plans to host a town hall meeting in Salem at 1 this afternoon, then stage a rally at McArthur Court on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene tonight.

He also will participate in a town hall meeting in Medford on Saturday before leaving the state Saturday evening.

Most political observers have said that Oregon's May primary would come far too late to have any impact on either presidential primary. But the race between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has remained so close that every state primary yet to occur is likely to receive significant attention from the two candidates.

Neither is likely to have won enough delegates to secure the nomination even after all state primaries are completed.

Shapiro said paid Obama staff began arriving in Oregon a couple of days ago, and the Obama campaign office will be fully open next week.

Shapiro said Obama has scheduled no other visits to Oregon before May 20, but added, 'I wouldn't be surprised to see him back.'

Clinton has not yet visited Oregon during her presidential campaign. A call to a media representative for her campaign was not returned.

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