Erskine Bowles will not run for governor, and who could blame him? He lost two bruising elections for U.S. Senate, and being rejected twice by voters had to hurt. With Bowles' absence, however, Democrats have little hope of keeping the governor's chair.
Bowles, former White House chief of staff, successful businessman, highly praised for his work as UNC system president, would have been the Democrats' best hope in this abbreviated campaign since Gov. Bev Perdue surprised colleagues with her decision not to run for re-election. With only weeks remaining to launch a campaign, Democrats have been floundering about for a viable candidate.
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton is running. So is Bill Faison, an Orange County legislator. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge has joined the race. Others, including U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, are considering taking a shot at the race.
The problem for Democrats is that none of these candidates have the name recognition and respect enjoyed by Bowles. Dalton is little known, despite years in the legislature and a term as lieutenant governor (a nearly powerless office). Faison is nearly unknown. Etheridge served two terms as superintendent of public instruction, meaning he has statewide campaign experience, but he also has baggage. As state superintendent, he presided over wasteful spending and ineffective educational schemes (remember the highly touted but quickly abandoned Basic Education Plan?). And he lost his last congressional race to an unknown, Renee Ellmers, after a devastating ambush video that made him look mean and arrogant.
All of this means that Pat McCrory, who lost the governor's race to Perdue in 2008 has a clear glide path to election unless he stumbles very badly during the campaign.