Poll: Bowles would be best gubernatorial bet for Dems
Posted January 30, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Registered North Carolina voters prefer former University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles among the potential field of Democrats who could face likely Republican candidate Pat McCrory in the governor's race, according to a poll released Monday.
In the wake of Gov. Beverly Perdue's unexpected decision last week not to seek re-election, Democrat-affiliated Public Policy Polling looked at how 13 possible candidates would perform against McCrory in the fall election and how popular they are within the Democratic Party.
McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, plans to launch his campaign for governor on Tuesday.
The PPP poll puts Bowles and McCrory in virtually a dead heat among registered North Carolina voters, which McCrory holding a 44-42 percent lead.
Bowles, who lost U.S. Senate bids in 2002 and 2004, hasn't decided whether to enter the race, although party leaders are reportedly pushing him to run. He couldn't be reached Monday for comment.
"I think, right now, we're probably in the waiting-for-Erskine stage, and nothing will happen until Erskine makes up his mind," Democratic consultant Gary Pearce said. "He's the big player in this, and his decision will have a lot to do (with others' moves). If he gets in, a lot of people won't. If he doesn't, a lot of people will."
Pearce said Bowles has the strongest resume in the field. He's well connected with national Democrats, and he can raise a lot of money fast. That last factor could be key, with only 99 days left until the May primary.
At this point in the 2008 campaign, Perdue had more than $4.5 million in cash on hand. The Democratic candidates in the 2012 race have much less time to raise funds.
"Erskine is great at many things, but he would be the first to tell you he's not a great politician," Pearce said. "He's not a great campaigner. This is not a natural fit for him."
The two declared Democratic candidates performed poorly against McCrory in the PPP poll. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton trailed McCrory by a 50-35 percent margin, while Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, trailed by a 50-31 percent margin.
"I've been campaigning for governor for five days, versus Pat McCrory, who has been campaigning nonstop since his last defeat in 2008," Dalton said in a statement. "I am in this fight to win. I am confident there will be growing support for my jobs and education vision to move our state forward, versus the destructive vision being embraced by Pat McCrory and Republican leaders. Their ideas are taking our state backwards and inflicting long-term damage."
Faison, who also isn't viewed well by Democrats polled, couldn't be reached for comment.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan fared second-best in the poll among possible gubernatorial candidates, trailing McCrory by a 48-41 percent margin. Her spokeswoman said Hagan has no plans to run for governor.
Former State Treasurer Richard Moore trailed McCrory by 11 percentage points in the poll, while 13th District Congressman Brad Miller, who said last week that he wouldn't run for a sixth term in the U.S. House, trails by 14 percentage points.
"I've been fairly encouraged, maybe to some extent depending on what the field is, that I would start with a very credible base, and I would be able to put together a campaign very quickly," Miller said, adding that he hasn't made up his mind yet and isn't watching to see what Bowles might do.
Likewise, Moore called the poll results encouraging but said he also hasn't decided whether to enter the race.
Other possible Democratic candidates who trailed McCrory by at least 15 points in the poll include former 2nd District Congressman Bob Etheridge, 11th District Congressman Heath Shuler, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and 7th District Congressman Mike McIntyre.