Bloomberg seeks inroads in Maine, where Sanders won in ’16

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has emerged as the most aggressive campaigner in Maine, a state easily carried by Sen. Bernie Sanders in the last presidential caucuses, and his campaign is planning one last get-out-the-vote drive in the Pine Tree State before Super Tuesday.

Sanders, who is from nearby Vermont, is hoping for a repeat performance in Maine, but he’ll need to withstand the charge from Bloomberg, a change in election format and a much more crowded field this time around. Sanders easily defeated the eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Maine in 2016, when the state was using the caucus format. On Tuesday, Maine will use the more common primary format.

Bloomberg has visited Maine, opened campaign offices and picked endorsements from former U.S. Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, adding drama to what had been a sleepy presidential primary season in the state. Maine’s primary will apportion 24 delegates, and most of the candidates have had limited presences in the state.

Bloomberg’s focus on Maine reflects his campaign’s strategy of placing a premium on the the 14 Super Tuesday states, said Zachary Holman, a campaign spokesman.

“We’re really seeing a great amount of support across the state,” Holman said. “We feel like it’s growing.”

The state remains Sanders’ to lose, said Mark Brewer, a political scientist with the University of Maine. The switch to a primary format will result in higher turnout, but that might not change the outcome, as Sanders is popular in Maine and has been buoyed by a recent strong showing in Nevada, he said.

“Bernie’s coalition in Nevada surprised a lot of people, including myself,” Brewer said. “You had to figure Maine was going to be a good state for Bernie even before Nevada.”

Another candidate angling for delegates in Maine is Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, who spoke to a packed event Saturday in Portland where she attacked Republican President Trump over “broken promises” and touted her ability to win in the “reddest of red districts.”

Others, including Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, visited the state earlier in the campaign.

On the GOP side, Trump is unopposed on the GOP ballot and there are no official write-in candidates in Maine.

In Maine, the state is using a primary this year after two decades of caucuses. The Maine Legislature decided to switch back to primaries for the first time since 2000.

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