Today, adding to the parade of endorsements Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud has been pushing of late, First Lady Michelle Obama flew up to Bangor to stump for him. She was likely sent because, as Amy Fried noted, the First Lady is quite popular amongst a wide range of groups – unlike her husband, whose approval rating is underwater even in Maine.
At the rally, held on the University of Maine campus, attention was paid not only to Mike Michaud, but to Emily Cain, who is in a close battle to retain his seat in the U.S. House. She spoke at the event, and was warmly received, as it was almost literally right in her backyard – she represents Orono in the Maine Senate and works at the university.
Noticeably absent, however, was U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows. Not only did she not speak, unlike at the Michaud rally with Bill Clinton in Portland, she wasn’t even in the building. Her campaign claimed it was because of a conflict, but the Michelle Obama rally was announced a week ago, and Bellows’ event could easily have been rescheduled or cancelled altogether.
Her absence may have been for another reason. At the Bill Clinton rally, Bellows was quickly refuted by the press for claiming Susan Collins voted for the Paul Ryan budget, which was completely false. There may have been concerns that she would make a similar mistake if allowed to speak there, or it may have been because of Planned Parenthood. Their national president, Cecil Richards, was at the rally and spoke. She also refuted a claim of Bellows’ that Susan Collins had voted against funding their group; earlier, she’d thanked Collins for supporting them.
Wherever the request to leave out Bellows came from, the lack of unity today was clearly on display. If Emily Cain hadn’t spoken, it wouldn’t have been quite so obvious – then it could have been played as Michaud’s event. However, when the entire top of the ticket speaks at the event except for one person, it becomes blatantly clear that there’s a reason. For an event this big, this close to the election, with so much free media to be had, the “scheduling conflict” excuse doesn’t wash.
Schedules can be changed. Invitation lists usually aren’t.