Hillary Clinton will bring her Democratic presidential campaign to King Middle School in Portland on Friday, appearing at a relatively low-key event that will be a sharp contrast to a Maine rally by her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who packed the Cross Insurance Arena in July.

Billed as a “grass-roots organizing meeting” the event will include Clinton delivering prepared remarks, making a pitch for campaign volunteers and then likely answering questions from the audience, said Phil Bartlett, Maine Democratic Party chairman. About 400 people will be in the auditorium, and Clinton is expected to appear at about 4:15 p.m.

Before the event, the candidate is scheduled to attend a private campaign fundraiser at an undisclosed location in Cape Elizabeth. According to the event’s Facebook page, tickets are priced at $1,000 for “friends” and $2,700 for “champions,” who gain admission to a reception.

The Clinton campaign is purposely organizing low-profile events, in contrast to the large rallies held by Sanders. While Sanders has been gaining in the polls, Clinton – the former first lady, secretary of state, and U.S. senator from New York – still holds a commanding lead. The latest national polls from the New York Times and Washington Post show Clinton with 20-point leads over Sanders, with Clinton polling in the low- to mid- 40s versus the low- to mid-20s for Sanders. Vice President Joe Biden, who has not announced whether he’s running for president, is polling at about 15 percent nationally.

Sanders is still a threat, though, and is polling ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a primary, on Feb. 9.

Sanders’ rallies have become a strong draw, and his liberal views play to the Democratic Party’s base, said Amy Fried, a political science professor at the University of Maine. In Portland, Sanders attracted more than 7,500 people to the rally at the Cross Insurance Arena.


“She does not want there to be any comparisons between the number of people who show up at her events and who show up at Sanders’ rallies,” Fried said Thursday. “She is staying away from large-scale events.”

Fried said Clinton, more of a centrist, tends to perform better at smaller-scale events where she can relate more intimately to the audience.

While Clinton is the “overwhelming favorite,” Fried said, Maine’s March 6 caucus is relatively early in the nominating process, and so the state could be relevant in choosing the Democratic nominee. Nineteen other states will have held primaries or caucuses before Maine’s caucus.

Bartlett, the Maine party chairman, agreed that Maine could be a factor this year.

“This is a testament to the importance of the Maine caucus,” Bartlett said. “I expect we will see a mix of die-hard supporters and people who are more casually interested in the presidential race.”

While the Democratic race is between Clinton, Sanders and possibly Biden, the Republican contest is hotly contested with at least 11 serious challengers, including billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and businesswoman Carly Fiorina.


Kathleen Bouchard, King Middle School principal, said while the event is being held at the school, it is not tailored to showcase the school and Clinton will not interact with a classroom of students.

“They’re just using our space,” said Bouchard, who will be at the event. “But it feels nice to be chosen. It’s very complimentary to know it’s going to be here.”

She said as soon as tickets became available, a number of middle school students snagged free tickets to the event, before it sold out. While the King Middle School event is free, due to space constraints people had to obtain tickets online.

“The kids have been talking about this a lot and are very excited,” Bouchard said.

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