PORTLAND – First lady Michelle Obama will visit Maine today to raise money for her husband’s re-election campaign and the Democratic Party.
She will first meet with deep-pocketed donors at a home in Cape Elizabeth, then headline a rally at the Ocean Gateway terminal on Portland’s waterfront.
Her visit will certainly energize party activists, but money is its primary purpose. Today ends the year’s third-quarter period for campaign finance reports.
Obama for America, the president’s re-election campaign committee, collected more than $47 million in the quarter ending June 30 and is on track to exceed the $745 million he raised to win election in 2008.
Michelle Obama has proven to be a master fundraiser. More than a year before the election, she is hauling in millions in campaign cash and sketching a portrait of her husband drawn with an intimacy that no one else could duplicate.
She often ends her speeches to Democratic donors with two questions: “Are you in? Are you fired up?”
Maine Democrats haven’t had much to cheer about since Republicans swept last November’s elections, winning majorities in the House and the Senate and capturing the governor’s office.
“We had a tough election last year, and what that demands for us is to dig deeper and work harder,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant, who will speak at today’s event. “We need to turn that anger into action.”
Barack Obama won Maine’s four electoral votes in 2008, but he won’t win in 2012, said state Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster.
“People who work with their hands are going to vote Republican,” Webster said. “They understand that the grand experiment didn’t work.”
About 650 people have paid at least $100 each to attend today’s rally in Portland, which will also feature appearances by the state’s top Democrats, U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud. Donors in the “preferred” section have paid $500, and “co-hosts” have paid $5,000.
The doors will open at 1 p.m., and the program will begin at 2:30 p.m.
Portland’s Downtown District sent an email to merchants Thursday urging them to spruce up their businesses.
Tar Sands Action Maine, an activist group that is concerned about climate change, plans a demonstration today outside Ocean Gateway, calling on President Obama to stop a 1,600-mile pipeline planned to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta across rich American farmland to the Gulf of Mexico.
Before the rally, Michelle Obama will be in Cape Elizabeth for a luncheon hosted by Karen Harris and Bonnie Porta, co-chairs of the Obama for ME Finance Committee. The private event will be held at Porta’s home near Crescent Beach State Park. Porta is married to Robert C.S. “Bobby” Monks, a real estate developer and minority owner of MaineToday Media, which publishes The Portland Press Herald.
Obama will travel in a motorcade. She will arrive this morning and, after the events, fly to Providence, R.I., for another fundraiser tonight.
Michael Cuzzi of Scarborough, who bought a ticket for the rally in Portland, said he’s excited about seeing Obama today.
“Any time we can have the first lady in Maine is wonderful,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for Mainers to get up close and personal and hear from her directly.”
Cuzzi was the deputy state director for Barack Obama in New Hampshire during the 2008 presidential campaign, and got to know the Obamas well. He said the first lady — known as “FLOTUS” in the text messages of Washington insiders — has proven to be hugely popular and knows how to excite a crowd.
Her popularity has remained high even as the president’s has slipped. Polls show she has broader appeal than her husband with a number of groups that could be troublesome for Obama next year, including senior citizens, whites and people in the West and Midwest.
While she is popular with both sexes, women express more deeply favorable views of Mrs. Obama: 47 percent say they have “very favorable” opinions of her, compared with 31 percent of men. A number of her fundraisers have been before largely female audiences.
In Portland, Michelle Obama will raise money for the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee splitting donations between her husband’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Drivers should encounter only minor traffic delays as Obama’s motorcade winds its way from the Portland International Jetport to Cape Elizabeth and the Ocean Gateway terminal.
Nicole Clegg, the city’s spokeswoman, said city officials don’t expect to close any streets in advance of the first lady’s arrival. For security reasons, city officials do not know the exact route she will take, Clegg said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be reached at 699-6261 or: