WASHINGTON – As Barack Obama prepares to make his re-election pitch Thursday night, Maine Democrats attending the party’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., said they believe the president needs to highlight his work on behalf of the middle and working classes to win over undecided Maine voters.

Maine is generally regarded as a safe state for Obama, thanks in part to his 58 percent-to-40 percent victory here in 2008 over Republican John McCain.

But some political observers and many Republicans say at least one of the state’s four electoral votes could be in play because, unlike most states, Maine is not winner-take-all in presidential elections. Maine awards one electoral vote to the winner of each of the state’s two congressional districts and the other two for the statewide winner. Republicans believe Romney may win the more conservative 2nd District.

Maine delegates to the Democratic National Convention offered glowing reviews of the speeches so far and predicted that would continue, just as Maine Republicans did at their party gathering in Tampa last week.

But Democrats acknowledged that not everyone in Maine is smitten with Obama this year.

Tom Reynolds, a delegate from Lewiston attending his first national convention, said the president needs to clearly spell out for undecided voters what he has accomplished and how it benefits the middle class. To Reynolds, this includes saving jobs in the auto industry — and thousands more in related industries — and enacting a health care bill that will expand access to insurance for middle- and low-income families.

“It is obvious that he needs to continue with a plan that focuses on giving relief to the middle class,” Reynolds said. “We have been progressively moving in the right direction. The economy is growing. It’s not growing as fast as we would like to see, but there is progress and to change direction now would not be in the country’s best interest. And I think that is something that undecided voters should recognize.”

Diane Denk of Kennebunk said she believes the Democrats’ emphasis on “a level playing field” for all and supporting those who are struggling will resonate with Mainers.

Denk watched the Republican National Convention and said she was struck by the mean-spirited tone of many speeches. She said the president’s challenge on Thursday is to communicate his successes and his plan to move the country “forward” — the campaign’s slogan.

“What I want to know from the president is how can you keep us going in a positive direction?” Denk said. “We are not there yet, and we know that.”

At least Mother Nature has been bipartisan in her treatment of the two conventions. Republican officials were forced to reschedule a full day of activities due to Tropical Storm Isaac. And on Wednesday, Democratic officials announced they are moving Obama’s acceptance speech from the 74,000-seat outdoor stadium where the NFL’s Carolina Panthers play to the much-smaller indoor forum that is the site of most of this week’s events.

The change of venue will undoubtedly change the feel of the speech. But Maine delegates said it shouldn’t change the content or their enthusiasm.

“A little wet but they can’t rain on this parade,” said state Rep. Emily Cain, a delegate and Maine House member from Orono.

Cain said the president should “not be afraid to stand up for his record.” Cain’s list of Obama’s successes included: passage of the health care bill, attempts to ease the loan burden on college students, propping up the auto industry and signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill designed to ensure women and men are paid equally for the same work.

Cain said she has met many undecided voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District as she knocked on doors for her own state Senate campaign. Echoing comments from others, Cain said the president is more concerned about the middle class than Romney, who Democrats have painted as a wealthy business executive out of touch with the average American.

“I think President Obama needs to speak to those people and really lay out how he is working for working-class people across the United States,” Cain said.


Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: @KevinMillerDC


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