March 17, 2010

Former president stumps in PortlandCards portray presidential 'heroes'

JONATHAN E

— By . KAPLAN

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Doug Jones/Staff photographer : Thursday, February,5, 2008:Bill Clinton stumps for Hillary at the Portland Expo.

click image to enlarge

Doug Jones/Staff photographer : Thursday, February,5, 2008:Bill Clinton stumps for Hillary at the Portland Expo.

Washington D.C. Correspondent

Former President Bill Clinton urged supporters who attended a rally in Portland on Thursday to back his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, when Maine Democrats caucus this weekend.

''If you want a world-class change-maker and if you want somebody who will never forget you, you show up for her at the Maine caucus,'' Clinton told an estimated 1,700 people at the Portland Exposition Building.

Clinton's speech was heavy on policy and light on politics. He touted his wife's proposals on everything from health care to education to veterans while refraining from attacking Sen. Clinton's lone rival, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Clinton attacked and questioned Obama's qualifications last month before South Carolina's primary, but Thursday night he called him an ''inspirational figure.''

Bill Clinton's visit to Maine, which will be followed on Saturday by visits from his wife, his daughter, Chelsea, and Obama, underscores the competitiveness of the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Hillary Clinton and Obama are campaigning hard in the seven states that will hold primaries and caucuses from Saturday to Tuesday. They were virtually tied after Super Tuesday, when 24 states held caucuses and primaries.

Maine will be the only state in the nation holding a caucus on Sunday. Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney won Maine's Republican Party straw poll last weekend, but dropped out of the race Thursday.

Clinton and Obama are not only vying to win the popular vote in Maine, they also are competing for delegates to the national convention. A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win the nomination.

Clinton leads Obama 892 to 716, but that tally does not include the so-called super-delegates -- members of Congress, governors and party officials who decide individually whom to support.

In Maine, Obama and Clinton will compete for 24 so-called pledged delegates, the electors who will cast ballots for the Democratic nominee in August at the party's convention in Denver. Voters who attend Sunday's caucuses will elect delegates to the Democratic state convention in May.

Sens. Clinton and Obama will make separate appearances in the state on Saturday. She will visit the University of Maine in Orono for a 9:30 a.m. appearance at the recreation center; at noon, doors will open at the Lewiston Memorial Armory for her 1:30 p.m. appearance. Obama will be at the Bangor Auditorium at 2:30 p.m.

Both campaigns began waging a spirited battle Thursday. Obama's aides sought to downplay expectations, while Clinton aimed to embrace the role of underdog by challenging Obama to a debate while they are in Maine. Clinton's campaign urged Obama to either debate or hold a joint town hall meeting on Saturday.

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, declined Clinton's offer, telling reporters in a conference call Thursday that it was ''sophomoric.'' Later in the day, the two candidates agreed to debate in Texas and Ohio, which hold primaries March 4.

In the same conference call, Plouffe said Clinton had an ''advantage'' in Maine because she had the institutional support of top party officials, including Gov. John Baldacci.

He also highlighted her win in Massachusetts' primary last Tuesday despite Obama's endorsement by Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.

Aides and surrogates from both campaigns are flooding the state. Both camps have 20 paid staffers working to organize supporters and get out the vote, organizers said.

Kennedy will campaign for Obama today in Portland and Lewiston, said Reid Cherlin, Obama's spokesman in the state. Kennedy will make public appearances at Seventy-Five State Street in Portland at 11 a.m. and at the Bates College chapel at 2 p.m.

Chelsea Clinton will campaign in the state, too, her father announced Thursday night, but campaign aides did not have any information about where she would appear.

In Augusta on Thursday, more than 50 Democrats rallied in the State House for Sen. Clinton. Baldacci, Senate President Beth Edmonds, Senate Majority Leader Elizabeth Mitchell and state Sen. John Martin were among those who gathered in the Welcome Center to show their support.

Baldacci and Mitchell introduced the former president in Portland; Mitchell's husband, Jim, is an Arkansas native.

Clinton began his speech talking about a shopping excursion to L.L. Bean's flagship store in Freeport and reminiscing about a trip to the store 25 years ago when he persuaded his wife to drive there at 1:30 a.m. to ''test'' whether it was really open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Shortly after Clinton began talking about how his wife is prepared to handle Iraq and global warming, a lone heckler shouted, ''End the war now.''

''Would you like to make this speech? Sir, this is not your event, this is for Hillary,'' Clinton said as the crowd booed the heckler and then cheered Clinton's retort.

When the protester added that ''the war is still going on,'' Clinton responded, ''That is because George Bush is still fighting it.''

The man was escorted out of the building by a lone police officer and private security guards.

Washington D.C. Correspondent Jonathan E. Kaplan can be contacted at (202) 488-1119 or at:

jkaplan@pressherald.comClinton leads Obama 892 to 716 delegates, but that tally does not include the so-called super-delegates -- members of Congress, governors and party officials who can decide whom to support.The Associated Press

Fred Thompson flopped in his bid to become president, but he's Babe Ruth in a new set of collectors cards.

Mitt Romney isn't waving goodbye to the presidential race, he's waving the ball fair as Carlton Fisk in the 1975 World Series in Upper Deck's Presidential Predictors set.

The Presidential Predictors cards are included in one of every eight sets of Upper Deck 2008 Series One Baseball cards. Collectors who find one of the political cards can register for a chance to win a trip to throw out the first pitch at a major league game.

Chicagoan Barack Obama is Jermaine Dye, the White Sox outfielder who won the 2005 World Series MVP. John Edwards' card compares him to Archibald ''Moonlight'' Graham, who followed his one-game stint in the majors with a career caring for children and their families.

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