In case you've spent the day out of pocket, Gov. Bev Perdue announced today she won't run for re-election.
That news came as a shock to pretty much everyone, including her major fundraisers, the executive director of her party, and, I'm told, even her campaign consultants. Her communications offices, both campaign and gubernatorial, appeared to be largely paralyzed.
The pundits, however, were not.
NCGOP spokesman Rob Lockwood thinks Democrats must be reeling. "I think what they're probably realizing is that this just made the outlook better for the the GOP," Lockwood said. "We have momentum going on our side. This is a battleground state. And Obama is still wildly unpopular."
State Democratic party director Jay Parmley assured WRAL just last week that Perdue would run. He only learned about her decision Wednesday night. Observers see positives for Dems without Perdue
He says while Democrats are proud of the governor and her accomplishments, her decision could be good for them.
"That allows us to have a governor talking about hugely important things from that bully pulpit, and a - eventually a nominee for governor talking about things. So we sort of get two for the price of one over the next few months."
This is not standard operating procedure. Generally speaking, when an incumbent could run for re-election but decides not to, he or she lets party leaders know, so those who might want the job can get a campaign structure in place and raise money.
That didn't happen this time. In fact, candidate filing opens in just about two weeks. But Duke political science professor Mike Munger still thinks it's good news for Democrats. Munger ran against Perdue as the libertarian candidate in 2008.
"Maybe they shouldn't have waited so long," Munger said. "But given where they were, they did the right thing. They finally lanced the boil."
Munger says Perdue's low poll numbers are pulling her party down. That wouldn't have helped President Obama's re-election bid. He won the state by a very slim margin in 2008 - just a few thousand votes. This year's races could be even tighter for races up and down the ticket.
"This is a net positive for Democrats," Munger said, "in the sense that [they're] getting her out of the way, having a different candidate they're not sure who they're going to run against, and a sort of renewed sense of excitement in the Democratic faithful in the state."
So who's in?
Lots of folks. Some you'd expect, some not so much.
Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton, the conventional successor to Perdue, was the first to announce his candidacy this afternoon. He's already removed the "lieutenant" from the logo on his website.
Other perennial wish-listers were quick to bow out. Four-term former governor Jim Hunt said no before noon, as did Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Two high-ranking women's names were floated to replace the state's first woman governor. But as of tonight, both Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Treasurer Janet Cowell have said no.
The "maybe column"
There's no shortage of Dems saying "maybe" to a run.
- Orange Dem Bill Faison has apparently been running for the nomination for months. He's expected to make an announcement soon, maybe Friday.
- Congressman Brad Miller, who announced today he won't run for re-election, wouldn't say no when asked.
- Perdue's 2008 primary opponent, former state treasurer Richard Moore, also confirms he's weighing a bid.
- Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, widely touted by Dem operatives as a "fresh face," says he'll announce his decision in the next few days.
- Congressman Mike McIntyre is reportedly weighing a bid.
- Former staffers to former Congressman Bob Etheridge, currently Perdue's disaster czar, say he'll decide in the next few days, too.
The name most broadly mentioned today is Erskine Bowles. He has statewide name recognition and friends in DC, and his work for Presidents Clinton and Obama counts in his favor, as does his time leading the UNC system. But he's lost two statewide races (for US Senate), and there's no compelling reason to think the third time would be the charm.
NC-11 Congressman Heath Shuler was reportedly making calls today, as was Winston-Salem mayor Allen Joines. But neither has publicly announced interest in a run.