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Obama coming to Maine as part of national swing to help Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls

JONATHAN ERNST | REUTERS
JONATHAN ERNST | REUTERS
President Barack Obama waves as he arrives via Marine One helicopter at the White House in Washington Oct. 14, 2014.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Democrat Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign is finalizing details around a visit to Maine by President Barack Obama.

Michaud campaign spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said Wednesday morning that the visit would be just days before the Nov. 4 election and that the location and agenda for the event are under discussion.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Obama will spend the last week of the campaign stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The president, who is known for using his fundraising prowess across the country, is the latest member of Democratic royalty to come to Maine to support Michaud, who is giving up his congressional seat to run for governor. Former President Bill Clinton came to Portland for a rally in early September, Vice President Joe Biden surrounded himself with Democratic politicians when he visited Kittery in early September, and first lady Michelle Obama was at the University of Maine in Orono two weeks ago to endorse Michaud. Among the Democrats’ top two couples, that leaves only former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is a leading hopeful to run for president, absent from rallies for Michaud. Reinholt said there are no plans for Hillary Clinton to come to Maine.

The Michaud campaign also has arranged visits by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic Governor’s Association Chairman Peter Shumlin and Democratic strategist James Carville, among others.

Pointing to recent polling data that shows Obama’s popularity lagging among Maine voters, Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen said in a written statement Wednesday that Obama’s visit would hurt Michaud more than help him.

“Fortunately, President Obama’s visit to Maine will give Congressman Michaud an opportunity to explain his record on rubber-stamping the president’s job-killing agenda,” said Sorensen.

Gov. Paul LePage also has had high-profile visitors, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, has been to Maine three times to stump with LePage.

Visits to Maine by politicians of this caliber show what natives already know: the result of the razor-tight gubernatorial election is far from certain.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said the true value of Obama’s visit will be to reinforce Democratic ideology.

“President Obama has won the state twice and is a true voice for progressive values like raising the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work,” said Grant in a written statement.

Obama won Maine’s Electoral College votes with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 against Republican John McCain, Green Independent Cynthia McKinney and independent Ralph Nader. In 2012, there was speculation that Obama could lose in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, and therefore split the Electoral College votes, but it didn’t come to pass. Obama topped Republican Mitt Romney, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Independent Jill Stein with about 53 percent of the vote.

However, two polls this week found that more Mainers disapprove of Obama than favor him. Pan Atlantic SMS poll results released Tuesday found that more than 53 percent of Mainers disapprove of Obama versus 43.5 percent who approve. Critical Insights also weighed in with poll results Tuesday that found 46 percent of Mainers view Obama unfavorably, and 44 percent view him favorably.

Those findings aren’t good, but they could be much worse. Republican President George W. Bush, for example, who came into office with a 90-percent approval rating, averaged 37 percent approval during his second term with a low of 25 percent, according to Gallup.

Christie’s approval ratings also are suffering. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that 42 percent of registered New Jersey voters had a favorable impression of Christie, which marked an all-time low for the tracking poll. About 45 percent of poll respondents viewed Christie unfavorably, which was a 7-point increase in the last two months, according to NBC News.

Michaud is locked in a close race against incumbent LePage. Poll results released Tuesday by the Bangor Daily News and Critical Insights showed Michaud ahead by 6 percentage points and behind by 3 percent, respectively. Polling aggregators, which make computations based on polls dating back months, continue to show a less than 1 percent spread between the two leading candidates.

“We’re extremely excited that the president is coming to Maine to campaign for Mike,” said Reinholt. “We don’t have the details finalized, but we’ll be releasing them as soon as we can.”


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