This weekend Maine’s Democrats will hold their caucus to elect delegates to their national convention. Last weekend the Republicans had their turn.
The Democrats took a calculated risk that by holding their caucus after Super Tuesday they would gain some national attention. It was a chance that has paid off big time for the Party. Their list of potential presidential candidates has been narrowed to just two: Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. The race between the two is so tight that both are putting great effort into getting Maine’s 34 delegates into their respective camps. It is engaging the state’s Democrats possibly even better than the Party had hoped.
It began last night in Portland when former President Bill Clinton came to town to campaign for his wife Hillary. It was a gentler Bill Clinton than had campaigned is some Southern states before Super Tuesday. There were reports then than his wife even told him to calm the rhetoric down as he played the attacker part. Shortly after his trip through the South, my friend who is spending part of the winter in Florida wrote telling me his wife was asking if the former President were deliberately trying to unravel his wife’s bid. She opined that Bill sounded like he wanted his wife to do some wifely duties at home, like cook, etc.
But that wasn’t the way he was in Portland. Portland TV Station WCSH-TV reports on its newscasts that “Unlike earlier campaign stops where the president has been Sen. Clinton’s attack dog, the president stayed positive in Maine.” The station went on to say that he spent his time proclaiming the reasons that his wife should be president, not why her opponent should not.
Today, Sen. Obama has sent his own big wheel to the state. Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy was in Portland this morning and in Lewiston this afternoon. I’m not sure how much his presence will help Obama, though, as Clinton beat Obama in Kennedy’s home state.
The big day for the Democrats will take place in caucuses Sunday, and both candidates will be in the state. Sen. Clinton’s appearance will be tomorrow morning in Orono while Sen. Obama will greet the Dems in Bangor in the afternoon.
The Portland Press Herald on its web site, MaineToday.com, reported this morning that Sen. Clinton challenged Sen. Obama to a debate, or at the very least a Town Meeting type session, while they both were here. Obama turned the suggestion down, but they will debate in Texas and Ohio before those states March 4 primaries.
The state’s Republicans thought their caucuses last weekend brought far more enthusiasm and participation than they had anticipated. Now they’re regrouping because the clear winner and favorite in Maine, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, has now suspended his campaign. But that enthusiasm and participation won’t match Sunday’s event as the charged up Democrats make their choices. By holding off until after Super Tuesday, Maine’s Democrats were able to bring in the Big Guns and a great payoff for a risk well taken.