President Obama, who hopes to boost the fortunes of Democratic gubernatorial candidates in some states he carried in 2012, traveled to Maine on Thursday for Mike Michaud, who is in a close three-way race.
The visit came at what could be a turning point in the race. Eliot Cutler, an independent, whose support has been dropping in polls, acknowledged Wednesday that he was a “long shot” and advised supporters to “vote their consciences.”
Democratic strategists believe that Cutler primarily takes votes away from Michaud in the battle with Republican incumbent Gov. Paul LePage.
Obama was to appear at a campaign rally Thursday evening in Portland, in southern Maine. Michaud has represented the northern part of the state in Congress and is less well-known in the Portland area, which also is the most liberal part of the state.
LePage was elected in a similar three-way race in 2010 with strong tea party support. He has been a controversial governor. Michaud would be the nation’s first openly gay governor if he wins.
Maine’s governor race is one of at least 10 in the nation that remain in toss-up territory. It’s an unusually high figure for this late in the election season and one that reflects the difficulty of a chief executive’s job at a time of continuing public unease with the economy.
In addition to Maine, Democrats hope to take seats held by Republicans in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Kansas, and are backing an independent candidate against the Republican incumbent in Alaska. One other Republican, Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, is almost certain to lose.
Republicans hope to pick up governorships in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois and Colorado.
Races in Georgia and New Hampshire are also competitive, although not as close, according to polling averages.
Obama will appear in several of those battleground states. That’s a contrast with the races for the Senate, most of which are taking place in conservative states where the president is deeply unpopular.
He campaigned in Milwaukee on Tuesday for Democratic candidate Mary Burke and is also scheduled to campaign in the next few days in Michigan and Pennsylvania, both states in which Democrats traditionally depend on a heavy turnout in minority communities.
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