Obama energizes Maine Democrats for Michaud

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PORTLAND (AP) — On a campaign swing through Maine, President Barack Obama called on Democrats on Thursday to get everyone they know to the polls to defeat Republican Gov. Paul LePage next week, warning that the race is “too important to stay home.”

Before roughly 3,000 supporters of gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud in Portland just days ahead of Election Day, Obama stressed the closeness of the three-way contest and declared that voters have a chance to choose a governor that puts Mainers first.

Obama applauded U.S. Sen. Angus King’s decision Wednesday to throw his support behind Michaud — after initially backing fellow independent Eliot Cutler — and urged all Democrats to unite behind the six-term congressman.

“It’s time to come together around Mike Michaud as our choice to lead Maine forward,” Obama said before a boisterous crowd at the Portland Exposition Building.

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Obama never mentioned LePage by name, but took several shots at the Republican governor, criticizing him for his opposition to raising the state’s minimum wage and expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law.

He touted Michaud’s work as state Senate president and his efforts on military and veteran’s issues in Congress and stressed that the former mill worker would not forget his working-class roots as governor.

“Mike’s got a vision for what the future looks like and it’s a vision rooted in our conviction that in America prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top,” Obama said.

Democrats hope the rally will energize their base and give Michaud a last-minute boost in the tight race. Polls show Michaud and LePage neck and neck with Cutler in a distant third.

On Wednesday, Cutler announced that he has no plans to get out of the race despite increasing pressure from voters who believe his presence could help LePage win another term. But Cutler reiterated that if his supporters fear he cannot win, they should vote for one of his opponents.

Michaud, who took stage to “We like Mike” chants, said the outcome of the race will be determined by which party works the hardest over the next five days.

“When you wake up on Nov. 5, one of two things will be true: We’ll either wake up having been victorious to repair the damage that this governor has caused … or we will have four more years of Gov. LePage,” Michaud said to boos from the crowd.

Obama encouraged Democrats to talk to their neighbors and friends about the race and to sign up for shifts making calls and knocking on doors as the heated contest enters its final days.

“Show that you still have hope and get out there and vote,” he said.

The Maine Democrat Party has thousands of shifts to fill for its get-out-the-vote effort this weekend, said party Chairman Ben Grant.

“Make no mistake, after all the ads, after all the press conferences … the election is in your hands,” Grant said.

Meanwhile, Republicans, who noted Obama’s lagging approval ratings, criticized Michaud for following the president’s lead on issues like the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s clear the purpose of this visit is to help Congressman Michaud rally a liberal base that’s not very excited about voting for him,” Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said in a statement.

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