BANGOR, Maine — On the eve of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s scheduled visit to Bangor, the Republican National Committee announced it was pulling presidential ads from both Wisconsin and Maine.
While the move appears contrary to the Sen. John McCain campaign’s insistence that the Pine Tree State and its four electoral votes are in play, at the very least it could put more pressure on Palin’s visit, pundits say.
“In reality, Maine should be the least of their concerns after having to now defend all these previously safe states for him,” said Mark Brewer, a political scientist at the University of Maine. “Her visit is still important, though, because it’s not only the people that go see her, it’s the free media that comes with it. In that way, it’s a way to get more coverage without spending more money.”
Palin is scheduled to address an anticipated crowd of thousands at about 10 a.m. today inside Hangar 11 at Bangor International Airport. The “Road to Victory” rally is open only to valid ticket-holders, who will be allowed entrance beginning at 8 a.m.
The Alaska governor’s visit comes as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has begun to pull away from McCain in many national and battleground state polls as the days before Election Day dwindle.
The RNC announced Wednesday afternoon it was focusing advertising dollars on more traditional “red” states in the final three weeks before the election. Those states include Colorado, Missouri, Indiana and Virginia, where Obama is showing strength.
Obama is outspending the joint advertising efforts of the Republican Party and the McCain campaign by more than 2-1.
Palin, who held a rally Wednesday in New Hampshire, will try to generate support in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District today with the hope Republicans can peel away one electoral vote — or perhaps win the whole state.
Maine is one of only two states that splits its electoral votes by congressional district, and the 2nd District is generally considered more conservative.
“It seems to me that the McCain campaign has bigger worries than trying to win one, or even four, electoral votes in Maine,” Brewer said.
In Bangor on Wednesday afternoon, a local crew from Bronson Stage Rentals LLC already had begun the process of setting up for Palin’s visit inside the expansive airport hangar. Aluminum stadium-type seating flanked one side of the 35,000-square-foot hangar, while a carpet-covered stage and black curtain loomed at one end.
U.S. Secret Service agents closed the hangar at 4 p.m. Wednesday to conduct a security sweep. The facility will be monitored throughout the evening as well.
Michael Magalski, resident agent in charge of the Portland office of the U.S. Secret Service, said details about protection and security for events are not made public.
“I can tell you that we work with all local police agencies and fire departments to make sure the environment is safe,” he said.
Any anticipated protestors will be dealt with in accordance with state law, Magalski said.
Already, the Maine Democratic Party and the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine have announced counterrallies to correspond with Palin’s visit.
Maine Obama supporters are expected to line Godfrey Boulevard near the airport entrance from 7:30 to 9 a.m. today. The Peace & Justice Center’s “Focus on the Issues Vigil” will begin at 7:30 a.m. along Union Street across from the main entrance to BIA.
BIA Director Rebecca Hupp, whose staff was coordinating with McCain campaign staff and secret service, said the event is not expected to have an impact on airport operations.
Political leaders have not been strangers to Bangor in recent election years.
President George W. Bush addressed crowds of supporters before the 2000 and 2004 elections. Democratic vice presidential candidates Joe Lieberman and John Edwards also made trips to Bangor in 2000 and 2004, respectively.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.