Former President Bill Clinton will campaign with U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, in Portland next week.
Clinton will be the top draw at a rally and reception for Michaud at the city’s Ocean Gateway terminal.
The free rally reached its capacity of 750 less than three hours after the Michaud campaign announced Clinton’s visit and posted an RSVP link on the campaign’s website, michaud2014.com/Clinton, spokeswoman Lizzie Reinholt said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
The rally is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday. The campaign said it will maintain a waiting list for tickets in the event of cancellations, but it can offer no guarantee of admission.
The 42nd president has attended similar events for other Democratic candidates seeking high-profile offices. In 2010, Clinton headlined two events for Democratic nominee Libby Mitchell, who eventually finished third in the five-way contest for governor.
Clinton’s visit comes as the current race is expected to increase in intensity. The three major candidates – Michaud, Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler – have been campaigning for more than a year. However, state elections here tend not to grab the public’s attention until after Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer.
On Tuesday, Michaud’s campaign touted the event’s reaching capacity as evidence that Mainers are ready to remove LePage from the Blaine House.
“I’m extremely honored and excited that President Clinton is coming to Maine to lend his support to my campaign,” Michaud said in a statement. “I’ve always admired President Clinton for his ability to work across the aisle to get things done, which is something we’ve been missing here in Maine under Gov. Le-Page. Based on the reaction our invitation has received, it’s clear voters in Maine are extremely excited about this race and ready for a change.”
Republicans portrayed Clinton’s visit as a signal that the 2014 contest would be a repeat of 2010.
In that race, Mitchell’s fast descent to third place coincided with Clinton’s last-minute visit to Lewiston before Election Day.
During that event Clinton urged a crowd that filled about one-third of the Lewiston Armory not to give up hope. He warned younger voters that not voting for Mitchell was akin to playing “Russian roulette” with their future.
Clinton’s visit to Lewiston was his second of the 2010 campaign. Lewiston proved a significant battleground in the race.
LePage decisively carried the city, which is dominated by Franco-Americans and typically elects Democratic state lawmakers.
Alex Willette, LePage’s campaign spokesman, said Tuesday that Michaud, a six-term congressman, is bleeding support in his own 2nd Congressional District and that Clinton’s visit was designed to “prop up his campaign.”
“This visit feels very similar to 2010 when President Clinton stumped in Maine in an attempt to stem the loss of support for Libby Mitchell and we saw how that unfolded,” Willette said in a statement.
“Congressman Michaud’s career as a go-along to get-along politician requires presidential star power to get the attention of the Maine people, unlike Governor LePage, who has a proven record of reforming government and getting Mainers back to work.”
Clinton has made numerous stump stops for an array of candidates since finishing his second term in January 2001.
While his presidency was rocked by a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Clinton has remained relatively popular with the American public. A poll commissioned last spring by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal showed that 55 percent of Americans held a favorable view of the former president.
Clinton has campaigned for President Obama and more recently for Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Grimes is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Clinton’s stop in Kentucky was portrayed in some media accounts as an attempt to insulate Grimes from Obama, whose popularity there has fallen.