Obama calls for hope, and votes, at Michaud rally in Portland

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PORTLAND — President Barack Obama knew his crowd Thursday night at the Portland Expo on Park Avenue.

“If you have come to this rally, you are probably going to vote,” he told an audience of 3,000 gathered in support of the Democratic slate of candidates, especially U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

Just a few days before voters go to the polls, Michaud is locked in a tight gubernatorial race with Republican incumbent Gov. Paul LePage, while independent Eliot Cutler trails in third place.

The overriding message, expressed for over two hours, was for rally-goers to get friends and neighbors to vote, in hopes of creating the heavy party turnout that made Obama a landslide winner in Maine in 2008 and 2012. Some Democrats blame low turnout for allowing LePage to be elected in 2010.

“It boils down to a simple question. Who is on your side?” Obama said of Michaud.

In recent weeks, crowds in Maryland and Wisconsin have walked out on Obama as he spoke in support of Democrats running for governor.

But at the Expo, crowds even stood behind the risers, happy to hear the message and catch a fleeting glimpse of Obama.

“I think it was great. I hope everybody wins their positions and we can get our state back,” South Portland resident Pat Millett said after the speech.

Millett, who also attended a rally led by former U.S. Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton on Oct. 24 at Scarborough High School, stood in the rear of the Expo, after waiting for admission at the end of a line that extended along the Deering Avenue bridge over Interstate 295.

Scarborough Middle School social studies teacher Tasha Triance brought her 9-year-old son, Hayden, to the rally from Standish.

“I want to see the president,” Hayden said simply.

Triance said she was heartened by the number of families attending the rally.

“Seeing the students and kids, it is great,” she said.

Michaud campaign spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said 7,000 ticket requests were received. The crowd filled the stands on the west side of the Expo and about 300 seats behind and above the stage where Obama and Michaud spoke.

The two were also joined by Mayor Michael Brennan, state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant, U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.

Reinholt said the message was clear: Committed voters needed to get others to join them by making phone calls or other appeals.

“They saw what is at stake and why they need to get out,” she said.

The race between Michaud and LePage has been close for much of the year, but Michaud may have gotten an additional boost Wednesday when Cutler told supporters to vote for Michaud or LePage if they thought a vote for him would mean one of the others would win.

After the statement, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King shifted his endorsement from Cutler to Michaud.

Obama also noted how close the 2010 election was, although he did not mention it was a tight race between LePage and Cutler, where Democrat Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell trailed the field.

“Four years ago, Republicans won the governor’s race in Maine by less than 18 votes per precinct,” Obama said. “Eighteen votes. Those 18 votes could be the difference between an economy that works for everybody, or just for some.”

When the crowd booed mentions of LePage and other Republicans, Obama had a blunt reply.

“Don’t boo. Vote,” he said.

The speech climaxed a whirlwind trip to the Portland area for Obama, who arrived in Air Force One at Portland International Jetport at 3:48 p.m., according to pool reports.

Obama first met with 25 Democratic Party supporters at the Cape Elizabeth home of Robert C.S. Monks. The supporters paid $16,200 apiece to attend, according to a Democratic National Committee official.

The visit was the first to Maine by Obama since March 2012, when he spoke at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. In his opening remarks, Brennan teased Obama for stranding him there after they rode over from the Jetport, but then moved on to the theme of Obama’s second book, “The Audacity of Hope.”

“I’m here to share my audacity to hope,” Brennan said.

Renewing a sense of hope was the climactic theme of Obama’s speech, where he implored voters to avoid easy cynicism.

“Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon,” Obama said. “Cynicism has never ended a war, or cured disease, or built a business, or taught a young mind … Hope is what built America. Show that you still have hope, and go out there and vote on Nov. 4.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements


President Barack Obama joins hands with Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on Thursday during a rally supporting Michaud’s gubernatorial bid against incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent challenger Eliot Cutler. Obama headlined the rally, which drew 3,000 people to the Portland Exposition Building and included speeches from Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant and Michaud.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud speaks at a rally Thursday at the Portland Expo amid a sea of supportive signs. Some of Michaud’s strongest support came from President Barack Obama, who spoke for 27 minutes.

“I’m here to share my audacity to hope,” Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said Thursday as he kicked off a rally in support of U.S. Rep Mike Michaud, his party’s candidate for governor. The rally was capped with a speech by President Barack Obama.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, speaks at a campaign rally Thursday at the Portland Expo headlined by President Barack Obama.

Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell speaks in support of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic candidate for governor, during a Thursday rally at the Portland Expo.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Brunswick resident David Cook after a political rally Thursday at the Portland Expo.

Standish residents Tasha Triance and her son, Hayden, cheer remarks from President Barack Obama during a campaign rally Thursday at the Portland Expo. “I want to see the president,” Hayden said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud fires up the crowd Thursday at the Portland Expo during a rally in support of his gubernatorial bid.

President Barack Obama addresses a packed house Thursday at the Portland Expo during a rally for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial bid.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.