By Bob Steinberg
May 16, 2008
Two days prior to the North Carolina primary, my wife and I followed our usual Sunday ritual of attending church and then gathering with friends for lunch at a popular eatery in Edenton. We aren’t the only folks to observe this weekly practice where friends and family get together to share everything from faith and fellowship to politics and punditry.
Leaving the restaurant, I was greeted by an acquaintance whose wife chairs the local Democratic Party. He was particularly talkative and seemed intent on keeping me engaged in conversation. I soon discovered why.
A car approached and stopped. Out of the backseat emerged an attractive, middle-aged woman with blonde hair and with her hand extended to greet me. “I’m Bev Perdue and I’m running for governor” she said with all the enthusiasm of a well-seasoned, polished campaigner. My acquaintance, who is keenly aware of my conservative politics, thought this was a hoot. Taking Perdue’s hand I said: “On behalf of the Chowan County Republican Party, welcome to Edenton.” Perdue appeared a bit stunned as she said “thank you” and then proceeded into the restaurant to meet with local Democrats.
With her win over State Treasurer Richard Moore two days later, Lt. Gov. Perdue would appear the favorite to become this state’s first elected female governor. Given the Democratic dominance in Raleigh for most of the last century, the odds would seem to support that. Her opponent in November is Republican Pat McCrory, the 41 year-old, seven-term mayor of Charlotte.
But I wouldn’t place a wager on Perdue just yet. In politics what sometimes seems like a sure thing at the outset can prove in the end to be anything but.
Late last summer, the national Democratic Party establishment’s candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.NY.) seemed to have a lock on the nomination for president. Today, she is clinging on by her proverbial fingernails. Sen. Barrack Obama (D.IL.) now appears to have the edge in this epic battle between the first woman and the first black candidate.
And talk about the unexpected; Republican John McCain, thought initially to be the front runner only to see his campaign and bank account tank late last year, resurrected himself and is now the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
In the GOP race for governor it appeared it would be either Fred Smith or Bill Graham heading the ticket this November. But Pat McCrory jumped into the race in January, ultimately becoming the state Republican standard-bearer.
With few ideological differences between candidates within the same party, campaign strategists look for anything to give their contender an edge. It may even come in the form of attack-ads. This is risky, especially given the chance of blow-back in the general election.
Not all primaries are bruising affairs. But the recently concluded campaign between Beverly Perdue and Richard Moore had vicious ads flying from both sides. Charges of the opponent’s lack of credibility were raised by both candidates. It’s uncertain if Moore’s ads have raised serious doubts about Perdue’s credibility among the general electorate.
The GOP nomination for governor focused on issues while avoiding the slime of the politics of personal destruction. This could bode well for McCrory.
Nationally, Obama has made the call for “change” his rallying cry. Significant numbers of voters appear to be buying it.
But in Beverly Perdue’s case any argument she may try to make for change could fall upon deaf ears. She does after-all represent this state’s Democratic machine and is herself a long-time government insider. In the wake of the recent corruption scandals involving members of her party, she cannot be expected to deliver the kind of real change North Carolinians expect and deserve.
McCrory is campaigning as an outsider emphasizing his many accomplishments as the mayor of Charlotte, including vetoing property tax increases three times. This in a state that has the highest over-all taxes in the southeast. He also points to his distance from Raleigh, both literally and figuratively.
This could be an advantage for him over Perdue who as Lt. Governor helped preside over the oft-referred to “culture of corruption” that breeds in the hallways of our state capitol.
Yet McCrory will still have a difficult time defeating Perdue in the east where the Democrats hold a firm grip on the reigns of power. But he should run strong everywhere else. In fact, Scott Rasmussen, an independent public opinion pollster conducted a recent poll showing McCrory with a six-point lead over Perdue.
In a year when voters are looking for leadership and tangible results, they are also weighing their individual prejudices, whether ideological or unfortunately, sexist or racial. Given that political climate we can expect the unexpected to continue right up to Election Day.