Obama Campaigns for Maine's Michaud to Defeat Gov. LePage

by | November 3, 2014 AT 10:30 AM

By Christopher Cousins

President Barack Obama came to Maine on Thursday to tell a loud crowd of 3,000 in Portland that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike Michaud is the kind of politician that runs for office for the right reasons.

"He ran for the state Legislature not because he wanted to be someone but because he wanted to do something," Obama said during a 27-minute speech at the Portland Expo. "Mike's been fighting ever since for ordinary Mainers because that's who he is."

Michaud and Republican Gov. Paul LePage are locked in a neck-and-neck battle that recent polls indicate could be decided by a percentage point or two, and the past two days have brought positive developments for Michaud. On Wednesday, independent Eliot Cutler, a former Democrat who trails both candidates by wide margins in polls, acknowledged that he is a "long shot" and advised his supporters to "vote their conscience," though he did not endorse LePage or Michaud. Later in the day, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King switched his endorsement from Cutler to Michaud.

Obama, as he often does, spent considerable time talking about Democratic ideals, making a case for the election of Michaud and Democratic majorities built on increasing the minimum wage, equal pay for women, environmental stewardship and renewable energy.

"Mike's got a different vision for what the future holds and I think you do, too," Obama said. "In America, prosperity doesn't trickle down from the top. We build ladders for people to get into the middle class. We think the economy works best when it works for the many, not for the few. That's Mike's experience. That's his life."

Michaud was upbeat and optimistic.

"This is your state and you know we can do better and that we must do better," said Michaud, who proceeded Obama at the podium. "This is your state and in five days you can take it back. ... Maine is so full of opportunities but we are being held back by one person and one person only: Paul LePage."

Thursday's rally was the latest in a series of Michaud campaign events featuring national Democratic Party luminaries, including first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The steady flow of big-name Democrats into Portland and nearby communities seems designed to firm up support for Michaud in more progressive southern Maine, where voters are less familiar with the congressman who has represented Maine's northern 2nd U.S. House District for 12 years.

The president's visit is sure to energize partisan Democrats, but to some degree it gives Republicans a rallying point as well.

Obama arrives in Maine with sinking national and state approval ratings. His handling of the ISIS threat in the Middle East and the Ebola outbreak in western Africa -- the latter of which many Mainers are especially tuned in to since the return of nurse Kaci Hickox of Fort Kent, who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone -- has drawn sharp criticism from across the political spectrum. Hickox, who has shown no symptoms of the deadly virus, is making national news for refusing to remain in a precautionary 21-day quarantine in her home.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said in a prepared statement that Obama's appearance in Portland sought to "rally a liberal base that's not very excited about voting for him."

Former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, who has endorsed Michaud, was also at the event. He presented a speech that included a swirl of Democratic achievements over the years from creating Social Security to expanding voting rights, didn't mention Michaud for the first several minutes, but sought to boost Obama's image by highlighting his jobs record.

"He led this country out of the worst economic recession in a century," Mitchell said. "In the past 55 months under his leadership, American businesses have added 10.3 million new jobs. That's the longest uninterrupted stretch of private-sector job creation in American history."

Mitchell described Michaud in much the same way as the 12-year congressman has described himself: as an ethical agent of compromise who has an uncommon gift of common sense.

"Mike Michaud will never forget his roots as a working class man from the town of East Millinocket," Mitchell said. "He respects others, he listens to people, including those who disagree with him. He will never insult or look down on anyone else regardless of their circumstance."

Mitchell, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1980 to 1995, endorsed Michaud in September, calling him "ideally suited to bring stability to the state budget." The Michaud campaign on Thursday released a new Web ad featuring Mitchell, as well as an automated telephone call in which Mitchell appeals to voters on Michaud's behalf.

LePage also is receiving support from high-level Republicans, including an automated telephone call featuring former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and New Jersey governor and Republican Governors Association Chairman Chris Christie, who will stump with LePage on Monday for a fifth time in Maine.

(c)2014 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)