Justin Chapin, who studies political science at Southern Maine Community College, stood in line for hours to attend President Obama’s speech on health care at the Portland Expo in April.

For tonight, Chapin scored another free ticket to a hot political event, this one to hear Obama’s Democratic predecessor in the White House. Former President Bill Clinton is attending a rally at the SMCC campus in support of gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell.

“I saw Obama speak and that was awesome,” said Chapin, 23, who grew up in the western Maine town of Phillips. “I have no doubts that seeing Bill Clinton will be pretty cool.”

Clinton’s visit follows a recent statewide poll showing Mitchell, the state Senate president from Vassalboro, trailing Republican candidate and Waterville Mayor Paul LePage by 18 percentage points in the five-person race for governor.

According to the Rasmussen poll, conducted Monday, LePage had support of 45 percent of 500 likely Maine voters. Mitchell had support from 27 percent and independent Eliot Cutler 14.

The Maine Poll, conducted the previous week by Critical Insights in collaboration with MaineToday Media, had LePage with 38 percent support, Mitchell with 25 percent and Cutler with 11 percent.

Mitchell’s campaign countered these polls Friday with the results of polling conducted by the campaign that had the Democrat trailing LePage by only four percentage points, 38 percent to 34 percent, with Cutler in third at 10 percent.

“There’s clearly some work that our campaign needs to do with solidifying our base Democratic vote,” said Jesse Connolly, a senior adviser to the Mitchell campaign. “Having a principal like former President Clinton come to town really rallies the base for Libby.”

LePage is also getting support from a visiting national political figure. Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi, is speaking Monday at DiMillo’s Restaurant for a luncheon fundraiser.

Barbour is the former head of the Republican National Committee and current leader of the Republican Governors Association. The luncheon with LePage is scheduled for noon to 1:15 p.m. Monday, with a news conference following.

Clinton is scheduled to speak at the Hutchinson Union Building at SMCC — also known as the HUB Athletic Center — tonight at 7:30. Connolly said the building’s capacity is just under 1,700 and he expects a full house. The campaign started a waiting list Wednesday after distributing about 1,500 free tickets.

Mitchell and her husband, Jim, who like Clinton is a native of Arkansas, supported the former president during his 1992 presidential campaign. In 1994, Clinton appointed Mitchell to chair the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. She held that post for four years.

In the 2008 presidential primary, Mitchell campaigned with Clinton in Maine in support of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“The Mitchells have been big supporters of the Clinton family over the years,” Connolly said. “I think he’ll clearly articulate the difference between Libby and the other candidates and also remind Democrats why it’s so critical to turn out and vote in this off-year election cycle.”

The Maine Republican Party issued a statement about the Clinton visit through spokesman Lance Dutson.

“Maine Democrats are clearly panicked about these fall elections. That’s why they’re trying to distance themselves from current Democratic leadership, and have decided instead to harken back to heroes from decades past.”

Because Mitchell is receiving state campaign money, there will be no fundraising component to Clinton’s visit, said Mary Erin Casale, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party. The party will be looking for recruits, however.

“We’re going to ask people to come in and volunteer, to work on the ground with us as well,” she said. “It’s going to be a really exciting event.”

Casale said she encourages everyone with a ticket to arrive early. Doors open at 6:30. Signs, strollers and other unwieldy items will not be allowed inside.

“When you have an event with the president,” she said, “security is pretty strict.”

Mitchell is scheduled to speak before Clinton, as are Gov. John Baldacci, Rep. Mike Michaud and Rep. Chellie Pingree. Already this month, Clinton has campaigned for Democratic candidates in Georgia, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania and plans to appear with Rep. Barney Frank in Massachusetts this afternoon before continuing to Maine.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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