Friday, December 13, 2013
U.S. Sen. John McCain brings his Republican presidential campaign to Maine on Monday, searching for votes and money in a state that went Democratic in the last four national elections, yet has a soft spot for mavericks and GOP moderates.
The Arizona senator is scheduled to speak in an outdoor event on the grounds of the Maine Military Museum in South Portland, which opens to the public at 12:30 p.m.
That appearance will follow private fundraising receptions earlier in the day at The Nonantum Resort and Walker's Point in Kennebunkport, the summer home of former President George H.W. Bush.
The South Portland event will give voters a chance to hear from a candidate that Jeff Grappone, New England spokesman for the McCain campaign, describes as a different type of Republican.
''While he is strongly committed to fiscal responsibility and keeping America safe,'' Grappone said, ''he's also spent his career fighting for real reform and putting his country first.''
McCain's visit will be the first to Maine by either major party's presidential candidate since he and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois locked up their nominations earlier this year.
The Obama campaign has not yet scheduled a visit to Maine, said Maine communications director Jessica Santillo. However, the campaign has begun to solidify a presence here, naming Santillo and state director Toby McGrath as Obama's top Maine staff last week.
Democrats also announced the hiring of Ronnie Cho as field director of the ''Maine Campaign for Change,'' an effort to organize grass-roots Obama supporters on behalf of party candidates across the ticket. Volunteers will canvass neighborhoods in Auburn and Bangor this weekend as part of that campaign.
McCain paid his last political call on Maine in 2006. He stumped for Dave Emery in the GOP gubernatorial primary and later for Chandler Woodcock, who defeated Emery, in the general election.
Democratic candidates have carried Maine in the last four presidential campaigns. A statewide telephone poll in mid-June by Pan Atlantic SMS Group gave Obama the edge over McCain, by a margin of 46 percent to 32 percent, with 18 percent undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval. That means that if the poll were repeated 100 times, in 95 cases the results would be within 5 percentage points of those reported.
However, independent voters outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in Maine. About 39 percent of voters are unenrolled, 29 percent are registered as Democrats and 32 percent as Republicans, according to figures from the Secretary of State's Office.
Some observers believe McCain can make inroads with independents if he can distance himself from the Bush administration and play on his reputation as a political maverick.
''He has a very strong base of support in the moderate wing of the Republican party in Maine,'' said Christian Potholm, a political science professor at Bowdoin College who has been a paid consultant for several parties. ''So I think that Maine is a very good place for him to hope for and look for some upside potential.''
Mark Brewer, who teaches political science at the University of Maine, said McCain's image as a maverick will resonate in Maine, where Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have established themselves as independent thinkers who are willing to buck the party line. Both have endorsed McCain.
''He still faces an uphill battle in Maine, undoubtedly,'' Brewer said. ''But I do think he'll be competitive here.''
Grappone, the McCain spokesman, said McCain will give Mainers the ''straight talk'' that they value.
''For Mainers, authenticity matters, and that plays to McCain's strengths,'' he said.
Part of the Maine's appeal also lies in the fact that it is one of the few states that can divide its electoral votes. Two of those four votes go to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote, and the two others go to the candidate who gets the most votes in each of the state's congressional districts.
Democrats control the first district in southern Maine. That made Potholm wonder why McCain is appearing there, in a military venue that will appeal to veterans who probably already support him.
''It's a very safe, comfortable place, but it's not going to get him any votes that he doesn't already have,'' Potholm said. ''I would send him on a street tour of Lewiston, let him get out there and show what he is.''
Lewiston is in the second district, where Republicans hold the edge.
Brewer noted that McCain's decision to appear in southern Maine keeps him close to Kennebunkport, within the fundraising orbit of former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.
The former first family will host a VIP fundraising reception and photo opportunity where tickets are priced at $2,300, according to the McCain campaign Web site. Collins, Snowe and her husband, former governor and congressman John McKernan, are also acting as hosts.
McCain supporters can join him for a round of golf at the Cape Arundel Golf Course for a contribution of $5,000, or attend private and general receptions for tickets priced at $1,000 and $500, respectively.
Staff Writer Dieter Bradbury can be reached at 791-6329 or at:
email@example.comMcCain supporters can join him for a round of golf at the Cape Arundel Golf Course for a contribution of $5,000.