From The Washington Post to popular websites like Politico, pundits have been predicting that North Carolina's 2012 gubernatorial race will be one of the hottest contests in the country – and one of the most expensive.
The latest fundraising numbers make that look even more likely.
In 2008, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue beat Republican candidate Pat McCrory in one of the tightest races in recent state history. Perdue spent about $17 million on that campaign, almost triple what McCrory spent.
The latest campaign finance reports show the expected 2012 rematch could be even closer. Early numbers predict the fundraising gap will be probably be much smaller, and could even swing in McCrory's favor.
The two were neck-and-neck in the final two months of the last reporting period. Perdue had a pretty comfortable fundraising lead in May and June until the last 10 days or so of June. For those two months, Perdue outraised McCrory by only about $1,000.
Perdue raised $1.34 million in the first six months of this year. That's a few hundred thousand better than the $1.29 million she raised in the first half of 2007, leading up to her last election.
She also started the year with about $400,000 in cash. But at this point in 2007, Perdue had more than $2.5 million in the bank. So overall, she's in a far more vulnerable fundraising position than she was in her last race.
Meanwhile, McCrory brought in just over $1 million in the first half of this year, despite the fact he hasn't even officially declared yet. He started the year with only about $62,000 in cash on hand.
Because he campaigned as an official candidate for governor for only 10 months in the last election, it's hard to compare his early numbers. But Republican operatives say McCrory's million-dollar haul was the bare minimum required to fend off a GOP challenger, so he could still face a primary next May.