Cover Story: Perdue vs. McCrory - Round 2?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Perdue versus McCrory - Round 2?  The fight for the title of North Carolina governor won't come to a head until 2012.  But already it looks like the card is set.

A rematch seems inevitable.

We know Governor Beverly Perdue wants to keep her office.  Her plan to seek re-election was leaked to the media, last week. A campaign insider confirms it.

And within a matter of days, Perdue is in Charlotte.

In town Monday for a big jobs announcement.  But also here for a swanky campaign fundraiser.

But if she wants to keep her job she has some work to do.  The latest poll from the Civitas Institute shows nearly 50-percent of voters disapprove of her job performance so far.

And a lot of Republicans think the candidate who can knock her off is none other than Charlotte's former mayor, and former gubernatorial candidate, Pat McCrory.

Perdue is practically raising money in McCrory's backyard.  And he told us he finds it ironic that Monday night's big-to-do is less than two miles from his home in Myers Park.  But he's not faulting her.  He says it makes sense politically to come to Charlotte.

But it raises the stakes for McCrory to begin his raising money if he's going to run.  And if he does it could make this the most expensive gubernatorial race in North Carolina history.

In the last two years as governor Beverly Perdue been to the state's largest city more than 30 times - more than her predecessor Mike Easley had in eight years in office.

About one third of Perdue's visits have been for some kind of economic development announcement, which was the case Monday at the Charlotte Chamber.

"It's a great day to be in Charlotte."

But there haven't been a lot of great days for Bev Perdue - not all of it her fault.

On her watch the state's faced the worst budget crisis since the Depression - forcing her to cut spending and raise taxes.

There have problems at the SBI, the Highway Patrol, mental health and the revenue department.  And her campaign finances are being investigated by federal and state authorities..

And just two weeks ago in a Republican tidal wave Perdue's party lost control of both houses of the General Assembly.

With approval ratings in the low 30s there was open speculation around the Dome whether she wouldn't run again.

One invitation blows that out of the water.  Titled: Governor Perdue 2012.  Some of Charlotte's best known Democrats raising money, $4,000 or $1,000 for the Bev Perdue Committee.

Although she's not saying anything officially.

We asked the governor, "Are you running for re-election?"  Her response, "Tonight's event is an indication."

When pressed to explain what she meant, she said, "I am not talking about running for anything. I'm talking about growing jobs and a wonderful company."

Pat McCrory who's largely stayed out of the public glare since losing to Perdue two years ago is also being coy about running.  Although he talks like a candidate - listen to the jab at Perdue.

"It's too early to start political campaigns and fundraising, when there are so many serious problems in our state and in our community right now," McCrory said.

His wife's car still has the bumper sticker from the failed 2008 campaign.

McCrory says he campaigned to get Republicans elected to the General Assembly and makes speeches all over the state.

He says he'll make a decision by next summer although if Perdue keeps chasing the dollars, insiders say he may have no choice but to get in sooner.

"Right here in Charlotte, right near my house. Nothing is sacred anymore is it?"  McCrory questioned.

One former Democratic strategist told us if Perdue doesn't get her approval numbers up by next summer she could be facing an opponent in the Democratic primary.

Others don't write her off that easily.  If the economy turns around she could be in the driver's seat.

Neither candidate has announced officially, but neither is saying "no."

McCrory got into the race last time less than 10 months before the Election in '08, if he decides to run again he won't have that luxury this time.

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