Local Politics

Obama, Perdue, McCrory win primary battles

Posted May 6, 2008 11:46 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2008 9:28 a.m. EDT

— Barack Obama staved off a late charge by Hillary Clinton to capture North Carolina's crucial contest in the Democratic presidential campaign Tuesday.

Obama captured 56 percent of the vote to Clinton's 42 percent.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue easily outdistanced State Treasurer Richard Moore for the Democratic nomination for governor in an often bitter campaign. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory defeated state Sen. Fred Smith and other challengers for the Republican nomination.

Perdue and McCrory both ran what they called positive campaigns. But after winning their parties' primaries, it was unclear whether they'll stick to their upbeat messages over the six months as they head toward the general election.

"You know, that's a good question," Perdue said Tuesday night. "But tonight, I'm thinking about this victory. I do know that we're going to stay focused on the issues that matter to the people of North Carolina – those middle-class folks out there who are working hard."

McCrory said his message – one of changing the culture of state government – also would remain the same.

"We need to debate the culture of the old status quo – the old politics of North Carolina," he said.

The general election campaign will begin immediately. McCrory wasted no time in calling for debates with Perdue, who sounded willing in an interview to participate in at least two.

The GOP planned a show of unity in Raleigh Wednesday morning, but it was unclear whether the state's Democrats could smooth over the differences between Perdue's and Moore's supporters and move together toward November.

Moore and Perdue ran a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination. It was a race at least three years in the making, and one that cost the pair of state government veterans more than $16 million.

Perdue stopped running negative ads against Moore in the final month of the campaign in favor of more positive ads, including one featuring television icon Andy Griffith.

She focused her campaign on issues, such as improving education and the state's economy. But Moore continued to batter Perdue with negative ads, including two attempts to link her to the Ku Klux Klan that many observers likened to race-baiting.

Perdue called her win "a victory for our message of opportunity and standing up for the middle class."

As for McCrory, he entered the race in mid-January – late in the game compared to Smith and two other candidates who had been on the campaign trail for close to a year.

"It's kind of overwhelming," McCrory said. "We started this 13 weeks ago."

Smith, the Johnston County senator who made a name for himself with a 100-county barbecue tour, promised to help McCrory do that, pledging his support for the Republican candidate in the fall campaign.

At North Carolina State University's Reynolds Coliseum Tuesday night, Obama told the cheering crowd: "I love you back. I truly do," during his victory speech.

"Tonight, we stand less than 200 delegates away from winning the Democratic nomination for president of the United States."

Clinton won the Indiana primary. At the end of the day, Obama won at least 40 delegates, and Clinton at least 31 in the two states, with 116 still to be awarded.

Obama had a huge lead in the polls a month ago, but the lingering controversy over his former pastor in Chicago, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, became a drag on his campaign. Wright has been criticized for statements that U.S. policies caused 9/11 and that the government created HIV to destroy minorities – statements that Obama denounced.