And BOOM Went The Tar Heel Political Landscape

Michael Bitzer

Well, it was a quiet, unassuming Thursday morning, innocently moving along until 9:15 a.m., when the first “tweet” came across—“is anyone hearing that….?”  Governor Bev Perdue’s bombshell has brought what was supposed to be a sure thing on the Democratic side to an “all-hands-on-deck” scramble for the Democratic nomination for North Carolina’s chief executive.  But the one person who shouldn’t be shocked can continue on with what he has been doing—and prepare his launch next week.

For those wondering why Perdue would wait until now, it was probably the slow realization that the cards she was dealt weren’t going to get her in the game.  A January 5-8 poll by Public Policy Polling out of Raleigh showed only 36% approved of her job performance, which even extended into her base of Democratic support (or lack thereof): only 50% of self-identified Democrats supported her, with 31% disapproving. 

Combine that lack of confidence from one’s own party with only 23 percent of self-described independents approving of her job performance, and the writing was pretty clear on the wall: the numbers just weren’t there.

In comparison, Pat McCrory, the presumed Republican nominee (pending his announcement next week), starts off the year in a very strong campaign position: money, an organization in place from 2008, favors from a successful Republican 2010 election year, and—at this point, gold—carrying the lead with a 52-41 lead with Perdue.

But now we have to wipe the slate clean, and await a new Democratic nominee.  Depending on who throws their hat into the Democratic primary ring, it could be the difference in making North Carolina competitive at the gubernatorial ballot, or a runaway for the Republicans to capture a prized possession, even with a competitive presidential contest.

If early expectations hold true, a number of Democrats are planning to jump into the race. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton quickly announced he’s running for governor after Perdue made her announcement. Other names mentioned include Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, retiring Congressman Brad Miller, former NC Treasurer Richard Moore, current NC Rep. Bill Faison, Congressman Health Shuler, along with one other interesting name: Erskine Bowles.

Candidates now have roughly three months to get an organization together, activate a significant fundraising operation, and get his/her name out there before the May 8th primary. Dalton, Moore and Bowles have that state-wide name recognition, a critical factor in modern campaigns.

The one thing Democrats want to avoid, however, is a bitter contest that goes into a run-off situation in the summer.  But these kinds of scenarios usually don’t avoid that trap.

The other major aspect to consider is what happens to the proposed constitutional amendment on gay marriage?  Republicans were hoping for a fairly quiet, non-motivating May primary election that would have helped get the amendment passed without much fanfare, especially from the Democratic side.  But now with a contested Democratic primary, we’ll see a very challenging environment for both sides on this issue.

Now all we need is a contested Republican presidential primary to round things out: hear that Mitt, Newt, Rick, and Ron?  What better way to enter the summer than a perfect trifecta of knock-down, drag-out elections.  But we’ll have the lazy-days of summer to look forward to, unless some other bomb detonates.  What’s that I hear ticking in the future?

Bitzer: Perdue’s Withdrawal Good News For Democrats

Perdue’s Surprise Announcement Turns 2012 Election On Its Ear


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