Why is Michelle Obama coming to Maine?

First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama

Today the Michaud campaign announced that First Lady Michelle Obama is coming to the University of Maine. Tickets are free, but an RSVP is required.

This is a guest that’s likely to bring a lot of students and community members to the campaign event and to generate a lot of local media.

It will help Democrats identify supporters, who they can mobilize to volunteer on the campaign, as well as to register to vote and to cast their ballots.

(Meanwhile, LePage looks weak by refusing to debate Mike Michaud.)

The event can be effective for one basic reason: Michelle Obama is quite popular.

Take a look at these approval ratings from Gallup:

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 3.58.46 PM66% approval is down from her height of 72% but it is far above most political figures.

(It is, however, in striking distance from the 58% favorable rating enjoyed by Mike Michaud, which is 12 percentage points above the 46% favorability for Eliot Cutler and 15 percentage points above the 43% favorability of Paul LePage.)

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 4.05.15 PM

Big numbers among some groups

In addition, per Gallup, Michelle Obama’s approval rating is especially strong among women.

While it is extraordinarily high among Democrats, Independents also strongly approve of the First Lady.

A recent article in the Wall St. Journal noted Michelle Obama’s popularity and her time on the 2014 campaign trail.

As First Lady, she has a different profile than someone in political office.

Jim Demers, a lobbyist who served as co-chairman of the Obama campaign in New Hampshire in 2008, said that with voters frustrated with elected officials in Washington, the first lady is an appealing and relatable alternative.

“She just tells a different story, because she’s not a politician and she’s not an elected official,” he said. [source]

Endorsements tend to have a limited effect on votes. However, holding an event on a campus outside of the Portland orbit, with an exciting, popular speaker, provides an opportunity to reach certain groups of voters and to connect with them.

As reporter Rebecca Metzler wrote today, in Maine’s gubernatorial campaign, “women are at the center of the action.”

Most voters in Maine are women and women tend to vote Democratic. They spend more time than men taking care of children and elders. Policy-wise, women are aligned with Democrats on government’s role in health care, education and support for the needy.

This visit solidifies that policy and electoral connection.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.