Perdue dismisses talk of vulnerability

Posted February 7, 2011 5:18 p.m. EST
Updated February 7, 2011 7:07 p.m. EST

— Gov. Beverly Perdue on Monday shrugged off comments in The Washington Post last week that she would be the most vulnerable Democratic governor on the ballot in 2012.

"It's never good for an incumbent when poll numbers that show you losing by 7 points are viewed as positive news," the newspaper wrote Friday in a political column about Perdue.

An experienced political fighter, Perdue said she's used to taking on doubters.

"I've been called the most challenged person wherever I was running since the day I filed (to enter my first race) in the late '80s," she said. "I've never lost a race, and I don't intend to lose a race."

Since she took office two years ago, Perdue has been burdened by the down economy and negative polling.

"One reason she's not as strong as she ought to be is her ratings among the Democratic base are really not as strong as they ought to be," Democratic consultant Gary Pearce said.

Pearce said there are rumblings that the governor might face competition in next year's Democratic primary, and he said a critical test will be how she handles the Republican-led legislature this year.

"There's nothing that unites Democrats more than fighting with Republicans," he said.

North Carolina State University political science professor Andy Taylor said Perdue must be strategic in her battles with GOP lawmakers, delicately weighing cuts versus taxes to avoid a public backlash.

"It's possible that Republican control might actually work to her advantage," Taylor said.

The governor acknowledged that her ratings ride on the economy, and she said she's counting on continued economic improvement in the coming months to bolster her re-election bid.

Ongoing state and federal investigations into her campaign finances also could play a role, although Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has said the state probe isn't focused on Perdue or any other elected official.

Political observers also see her closely tied to President Barack Obama's fortunes in North Carolina, especially with the Democratic convention landing in Charlotte next summer. Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, who narrowly lost to Perdue despite the Obama wave in 2008, appears to be angling for a rematch.

Since North Carolina allowed for consecutive gubernatorial terms in the late 1970s, no governor has ever lost a re-election bid. Recent polls show Perdue trailing McCrory in a potential rematch, but both candidates might have to get past primary challenges to get to that point.

"If 2012 is more like 2010, that's going to be problematic for her," Taylor said of Perdue.