Friday, January 27, 2012

Gov. Perdue pulls a surprise

Bev Perdue did what's hard to do these days: She shocked the political establishment. Perdue announced Thursday that she would not run for re-election as governor, and that took both Democrats and Republicans by surprise. They had expected her to run, and many, if not most, had expected her to lose.

Perdue said she decided to devote her time to improving education, her pet policy priority throughout her years in the Governor's Mansion. But she also must have decided that she was likely to lose and didn't want to go out a loser. Who could blame her.

Bev's surprise opens doors for plenty of Democrats. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton has already thrown his hat in the ring. Richard Moore, former state treasurer who lost to Perdue in the primary four years ago, might be interested. Erskine Bowles, who lost two bids to be U.S. senator and settled for a much better job as president of the UNC system, has been touted as a potential candidate. Others have taken themselves out of consideration. Attorney General Roy Cooper says he likes the job he has. Four-term Gov. Jim Hunt, who was as intense as ever when I saw him this week, says he's not interested.

Pat McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor who lost a hard-fought battle with Perdue in 2008 and has been running for the same office ever since, might be tempted to send a thank-you note to Perdue. Running against nobody or against a gaggle of little-known Democratic hopefuls, should prove even easier than running against Perdue. He was far ahead of her in the polls.

President Barak Obama offered conciliatory remarks about Perdue's decision. He undoubtedly knows that without his get-out-the-vote effort in '08 and the surge in African-American voting on his behalf, McCrory would have whipped Perdue. Perdue owes Obama, and her getting off the Democratic ticket might do Obama a favor. Perdue was not increasing Democratic turnout with her below 50 percent favorability rating, so if Democrats can come up with a more popular candidate, it might help Obama hold North Carolina in the fall. He'd like to hope so, anyway.

Perdue's problem has been that, although she is the state's first woman governor, she is not much of an innovator. She has been a traditional, old-time Democratic politician. She harped on education, and she embraced most traditional Democratic causes. But can you think of a single original, innovative idea she has put forward?She has been a foot soldier for the party, and she kept marching until it became her turn to head the ticket. It was her misfortune to face a new Republican legislature that didn't much care for her priorities. Perdue's proposal earlier this month for a sales tax increase — just for the chil'ren, you understand — hit the ground with a thud and didn't bounce at all. If Perdue intended to hang her re-election on that proposal, it was smart of her to bail out.

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