Even though the latest poll shows Democrat Walter Dalton pulling closer to frontrunner Pat McCrory, one questions hangs over his flagging campaign: Could Gov. Bev Perdue have done better?
Dome posed the question to six political consultants and pundits. Read their thoughts below and questions about whether Democrats ever had a chance.
The case for Perdue: She started the year even in money with McCrory at $2 million. She is well known throughout the state and vice chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association. And at times, she found a coherent message in her opposition to the Republican legislature.
The case against: Perdue is wildly unpopular. The criminal cases against her close associates hurt. And Republicans were salivating at the chance to run against her and tear her down.
Among the political observers, most think Perdue wouldn't have done much better -- but others suggest she may have made it a little tighter race.
Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling chief pollster: "That Walter Dalton is losing the way he is has a lot more to do with Bev Perdue than it does with Walter Dalton. When you have an incumbent Governor with a 30% approval rating, voters are going to change the party in the Governor’s office. There’s really nothing the candidate can do about it. Democrats should be grateful to Dalton for taking one for the team in what bordered on an unwinnable election. I think Dalton and his team should hold their heads high regardless of the outcome on Tuesday."
Brad Crone, Democratic strategist: "Given this environment, Governor Perdue would have performed at the same level as we have seen with Lt. Governor Dalton. As we have seen, Dalton faced a huge obstacle in the finance sector. McCrory was able to shut down traditional sources of money for Democrats. He recruited and won over typical Democratic fundraisers, especially in Eastern North Carolina."
Chris Cooper, political science professor Western Carolina University: "I think the Democrats might have had a slightly better chance with Perdue in the race, but not much. Perdue would have benefited from name recognition, but many of the factors traditionally associated with incumbency would be working against her. In fact, Many of Dalton's problems have stemmed from his connection to Perdue and her policies. She has been, at various times during her administration, the least popular governor in the United States, so it's unlikely that she would have been able to dig out of the hole. The Democrats were going to have trouble in this race, no matter who was running."
Gary Pearce, Democratic strategist: "I don’t think it would have made a lot of difference if Perdue had run. She would have had more money, but she also had serious negatives. Politics is cyclical. Democrats have had the Gov’s office for 20 years. Just like with the legislature, that can’t last forever in a closely divided battleground state."
David McLennan, political science professor Peace University: "I don’t think Perdue would have done much better. She may have exploited her gender and convinced a few more women to vote for her than Dalton may receive, but I don’t think she would have been any more competition for McCory. All the polls had Perdue with a 38% ceiling in generic match-ups with Republicans and in specific match-ups with McCrory. Dalton is performing about the same."
Michael Bitzer, political science professor Catawba College: "I think the Democrats were dealt a hand that is akin to what the Republicans got dealt in 2008 at the presidential contest: a widely unpopular incumbent at that time and an electorate that just wanted a change."