Governor Bev Perdue said today she's not surprised by a Politico article ranking her 2012 race as the second most competitive gubernatorial contest in the country.
Monday's story by Dave Catanese moves the expected Perdue/McCrory matchup up one spot. It's now just behind the open seat race in Montana. Recent polls show Republican Pat McCrory, who hasn't yet officially declared his candidacy, holding onto a single-digit lead over the first-term Democrat.
"I think this state is a tough state," Perdue said to reporters this morning. "The state’s in play – we all know that - with the national democratic convention here, with the emphasis on North Carolina being very competitive again, with the interest from Washington."
"Certainly this is - if not the most - it’s one of the top competitive races in the country. It always has been and it always will be," she said.
Perdue's 2008 race was a close one - she beat McCrory by a scant three points, 50% to 47%, even with the strongest Democratic presidential coattails since 1976.
But it isn't quite accurate to say North Carolina's governor's race has always been one of the most competitive in the country. In fact, her two Democratic incumbent predecessors both won re-election pretty handily.
In 2004, then-incumbent Mike Easley beat GOP challenger Patrick Ballantine by a 13-point margin. In 2000, an open-seat race, Easley beat Richard Vinroot by six points - the closest race in memory at that point.
The same pattern held true for former Governor Jim Hunt's second tenure in office. In 1996, he beat GOP nominee Robin Hayes by 13 points, and in 1992, his margin over Jim Gardner was about 10 points.
To be fair, 10 points or even 13 doesn't quite qualify as a blowout, but it's not exactly a nailbiter, either.
What seems clear, at least at this point in the election cycle, is that Perdue will likely have a bumpier road to re-election than any Democratic incumbent in recent memory.