Why bringing the president, first lady or a congressman to Maine matters, plus 7 stories you need to read

Former President Bill Clinton and Maine gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud hit the stage at the Portland Expo recently in Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Former President Bill Clinton and Maine gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud hit the stage at the Portland Expo recently in Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Part of the calculus for many voters trying to figure out who to support has to do with trying to imagine the candidate in the position he or she is running for. That’s why some campaigns go to such lengths to bring in big names and make sure the media has an opportunity to spread a photo or video of the candidate and the visitor stumping together.

It’s a strategy that all three gubernatorial candidates are employing, as well as 2nd Congressional District Republican nominee Bruce Poliquin.

On Sunday, Democrat Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign announced that former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton will rally for Michaud on Friday in Scarborough. President Barack Obama previously agreed to come to Maine on Michaud’s behalf on Oct. 30. Former President Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama have already been on stages with Michaud in recent weeks.

In addition, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has had three visits from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, and independent candidate Eliot Cutler has landed the support of former Maine governor and current U.S. Sen. Angus King.

So what’s the point?

Beyond the obvious — that having former presidents and presidential hopefuls in Maine is a big deal that attracts a lot of media attention — there may be a little more to it when it comes to Michaud. The six-term congressman has been attacked for weeks for what his opponents say has been a lackluster political career. Appearing in media coverage with his arm held up, prize-fighter style, by Bill Clinton or Michelle Obama creates the impression that Michaud is part of the Washington establishment, which of course he is.

That said, one or more of the Democratic royalty would probably visit Maine regardless of who the gubernatorial candidate is, just as happened in 2010. The Clintons and Obamas coming is an indication that the Democratic universe recognizes that the race between Michaud and Republican Gov. Paul LePage is a toss-up.

There’s also a fundraising component, at least at the Hillary Clinton event. Like her husband did in September, Clinton will participate in a photo line where people make a donation in order to have their picture taken with her. The Michaud campaign said today that there is no fundraising component to President Obama’s visit.

Bruce Poliquin, the Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Michaud, also had some star power on his side on Sunday when U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, attended a fundraiser with Poliquin in the Oxford County town of Norway. That follows on a visit in September on Poliquin’s behalf by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

McCarthy is by no means as big a name as Boehner, mostly because he gained his leadership role in the House just this past August when former leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, lost in a primary bid for re-election. The McCarthy fundraiser wasn’t a public event, but McCarthy and Poliquin did sit for an interview with WMTW.

They emphasized that with Republicans likely to maintain their House majority, McCarthy will be in a position to place Poliquin on influential committees. Democrat Emily Cain’s campaign said Mainers don’t care about visits from “Washington insiders,” though Cain has also been endorsed by some Washington higher-ups, including independent Maine Sen. Angus King and former Democratic Sen. George Mitchell of Maine.

In news related to the 2nd Congressional District race, Roll Call reported today that the National Republican Congressional Committee is cutting back on its television advertising in the race between now and Election Day, Nov. 4. The NRCC had originally reserved $1.6 million in TV time on behalf of Poliquin but has since decided to direct its resources to other races. That could be because Poliquin’s chances of victory appear to be improving, though some 25 percent of the voters in the race tell pollsters they’re undecided. In recent days, the Cook Political Report has moved the race from “leaning Democrat” to “toss up.” 

Here’s your Monday list of 7 recent political stories you need to read

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.