Saturday, September 20, 2008

North Carolina Governor Race

Race of the Day

North Carolina Governor

September 20, 2008
45 Days Until Election Day

Status: Open Democrat
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Tossup (R)

The Tar Heel State is one of several in the south that sends a lot of Republicans to Washington in federal election but is also one of the hardest for Republicans to break through in at the state level, as Democrats have won every Gubernatorial election in North Carolina since 1992. This year though, with the office being open, the strongest possible GOP nominee, and the other party having endured a tough primary, Republicans are more optimistic than they have been in years in finally winning back the position of Chief Executive.

With popular Democrat Governor Mike Easley term-limited, his job was contested in the primary by two proven statewide winners, State Treasurer Richard Moore and Lt. Governor Bev Perdue. The contest between the two Democrats was competitive and nasty at times with both candidates blasting each other in negative television advertisements. Perdue, backed, at least tacitly by the incumbent Governor, surged at the end of the primary campaign and won it relatively comfortably and appeared to be on pace to become North Carolina's first female Governor.

The Republican side of the equation saw a closer and more crowded race, which was won by Pat McCrory, the Mayor of the state's largest city of Charlotte. Politicians of both parties, who have been Mayors of Charlotte, have a somewhat dubious history in the state of losing statewide elections, perhaps due to some resentment from the rest of the state which has many small towns and rural communities. McCrory was a late entrant to the race this time around, entering a GOP field which had three conservatives which had been campaigning for some time. McCrory, who was somewhat more moderate than the others, looked like he could take advantage of a split conservative base upon entering the field, and also receive the support of those who recognized that he would pose the biggest threat to the eventual Democrat nominee, in a state which has seen that party have the edge in campaigns for Governor.

Things got tighter down the stretch though and for a time, there was a possibility that McCrory would fall short of the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff election in the primary. Not only would that result have cost the Republicans a few weeks of general election preperation, but it also might have been tougher for McCrory to prevail against just one conservative run-off opponent, and Republicans might have been faced with a less electable candidate. When all was said and done however, McCrory received enough votes to win outright, and in a primary which had its own degree of negativity, his defeated opponents were very quick to unite behind him.

Post-primary polls have shown a very close race, with most of them for a few months tending to have Perdue a few points ahead. Over the past month or so though, McCrory appears to have gained some ground and now appears to be slightly ahead in most of the recent polls, with a couple from Survey USA even having him up by as much as eight.

The race will likely go all the way down to the wire. Perdue has the advantage insofar as having been elected statewide before and the state's habit of sending Democrats to the Governor's Mansion. Perdue is also liked by many more for her folksy charm than overwhelming leadership qualities.

McCrory might see a bigger advantage of being a Republican in a state that might decide a change is in order after so many years of having a Democrat in charge. He also can point to his record of Mayor and an image of being an efficient manager more than an overly ideological figure and that might be a big plus in a growing population state which has attracted many newcomers from outside of the south as well as white collar workers in recent years.

This contest might see-saw back in the polls a great deal over the next several weeks, but as of now, it appears that Republicans have a very slight advantage in winning an office which has eluded them for close to a generation.

McCrory campaign link:

2008 Governor races predicted: 4 D, 2 R
Predicted Gubernatorial total thus far: 26 D, 19 R


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