RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley has passed on various high-profile campaign stops like the Democratic convention and visits from presidential candidate John Kerry. The governor said his job comes first and he is counting on that strategy will help him keep it.
Although he has raised millions from supporters, Easley does not make a habit out of public campaign events.
"Maybe if it involves NASCAR, he enjoys showing up for that, but the governor likes doing smaller one-on-one events with people," said Jay Reiff, representative of the Easley campaign.
"Mike Easley is more of a behind-the-scenes kind of campaigner," said David McLennan, professor at Peace College.
McLennan said Easley sticks to a cautious incumbent approach with crafted TV commercials. He also capitalizes on his position by taking the stage on job announcements and natural disaster response.
"It's the most public position and he does take advantage of that," he said.
Republican Patrick Ballantine does not have that luxury, so his full-time job must be a flurry of campaign stops across the state. Even when it comes to incumbents, Easley is a different politician.
"Gov. [Jim] Hunt was very public. He would go to campaign events of other candidates even if he wasn't a featured candidate," McLennan said. "Easley is a more subtle campaigner."
So far, Easley has shied away from public appearances with fellow Democrats like Erskine Bowles or John Kerry.
"Some people might consider him less than a team player," he said.
"I don't know if it's a more cautious approach. It's the way the governor does business and I would argue he does it pretty effectively," Reiff said.
Easley's low-key campaign style worked in 2000, even though Republican George W. Bush easily carried North Carolina in the race for president. This year, it is too early to tell, but recent polls show Easley with a double-digit lead.