Reactions mix leading into first lady’s visit

Posted Sept. 30, 2011, at 12:24 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 30, 2011, at 1:48 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A musician slated to play as supporters file into the Ocean Gateway terminal this afternoon to see first lady Michelle Obama said the venue is buzzing about the high-profile visit.

In contrast, the head of the Portland Republican City Committee said the appearance isn’t even a “blip on [Republicans’] radar screen.”

Obama is in Maine today for two fundraiser events in support of her husband’s re-election campaign, first a private party at a home in Cape Elizabeth, then a second appearance at the Ocean Gateway on the Portland waterfront for lower level donors.

Entrance into one of the two exclusive events ranges in cost from $100 to several thousand dollars.

Kirsten Martin, the chairwoman of the Portland Republican City Committee, said she hasn’t “paid much attention” to Michelle Obama’s visit.

“Unless you have the couple thousand dollars you need to go see her, I don’t think it affects anybody,” Martin told the Bangor Daily News today. “I don’t understand how anyone can still support the president. He hasn’t accomplished anything. I think I’m a reasonable person who will vote for a candidate who will get things done, and he hasn’t done that. … I think a lot of Republicans are now saying we’d even rather have Hillary [Clinton] than Barack. Even she’d have a better grasp on things.”

Colin Gulley, banjo player for the indie bluegrass band The Toughcats, was among those setting up for the Ocean Gateway event today. The Toughcats are scheduled to play for about an hour while attendees get checked by security agents and begin assembling for afternoon speeches by Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, and finally Michelle Obama.

“It seemed like there was a lot of buzz among the caterers and the people who were loading in flowers,” Gulley told the Bangor Daily News just before noontime today. “I got the impression people were really excited the first lady is coming to Portland. It’s a good buzz going on around there.”

Gulley said his band is honored to be invited to play at the event and hopes to meet Obama, but said he also understands she’s on a tight schedule.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be in her shoes,” he said. “I know they tend to whisk the first lady and president in and out of events pretty quickly because of security and time constraints. We’re just happy to be there.”