BANGOR, Maine — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday told a group of enthusiastic Republicans in Bangor that they needed to make the re-election of Maine Gov. Paul LePage a top priority over the next six days.
“For the next six days, make Paul LePage your cause. Make Paul LePage your assignment. Make Paul LePage your mission,” he said. “If you do that over the next six days, I can promise you, we are going to have one big, loud, happy celebration on the evening of Nov. 4.”
Christie, who’s chairman of the Republican Governors Association and is mulling a potential 2016 presidential bid, addressed a crowd of about 200 LePage donors at the Bangor Banquet and Conference Center.
Christie was received warmly by the crowd, who dined on hors d’oeuvres and cheered regularly as he spoke. “Christie for president!” one of them yelled as he took the lectern.
LePage similarly asked his supporters to get out the vote, a call that demonstrated the tightness of this year’s gubernatorial contest.
“We really need everybody here to get two, three, four, five people to the polls,” LePage said. The governor also promised that Christie will be back in Maine one last time on Monday, Nov. 3 — the day before Election Day.
Earlier in the evening, Christie appeared at a fundraiser elsewhere in Bangor for the Maine GOP, capping a daylong campaign swing that also saw him stump for Republican gubernatorial candidates in Maryland and Rhode Island. The appearance Tuesday was Christie’s second in Bangor and fourth overall in Maine this election cycle.
The multiple Maine visits — as well as the $4.25 million in spending by the Republican Governors Association, the most by any group — are indicative of the race’s importance to Republicans nationally, who are keen to maintain their advantage in governor’s mansions across the country.
Christie praised LePage for paying off the state’s hospital debt, enacting sweeping income tax cuts, cutting the welfare rolls and presiding over the creation of 22,000 private-sector jobs. But he said none of that was as important as what he described as LePage’s independent judgment.
“You may not agree with every word that comes out of his mouth every day,” Christie said — prompting a response of “I do!” from several supporters. Christie continued: “But what you know is you never have to wonder whether some political consultant is whispering in his ear, whether there’s some talking points in front of him.”
LePage and his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, are locked in a tight head-to-head race for the Blaine House, and each candidate is turning to their respective party’s big guns to help boost enthusiasm and turnout in the home stretch of the campaign. Michaud was joined at a rally by Hillary Clinton last week, and he will share the stage with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
Democrats on Tuesday said the fact Christie is the only well-known Republican to stump with LePage reflects poorly on the incumbent’s campaign. They criticized LePage’s contention in the debates that a $100,000 annual salary is “not that rich” and Christie’s recent quip that he’s “tired of hearing about the minimum wage.”
“These are two governors who just don’t get it,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant. “Another appearance from these two governors is actually good for our Democratic ticket. It’s a reminder of what four more years will look like under the failed and divisive leadership of Gov. LePage.”
Also on Tuesday, the Republican Governors Association began airing a new TV ad in Maine that criticizes Michaud while simultaneously boosting independent candidate Eliot Cutler. Democrats see the move as a cynical attempt to divide the governor’s opposition, thus ensuring his re-election.
Cutler is hoping for a repeat of the last-minute surge that propelled him to within a razor’s edge of victory in 2010, but polls indicate his support continues to lag far behind the two front-runners.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.