Bev Perdue has been perceived as the front runner for Governor next year in many circles and our first round of general election polls seems to confirm that status...but it's a lot closer than many might have expected.
Perdue leads against all four potential GOP nominees for Governor. She has solid margins against Fred Smith and Bob Orr but it's pretty close against Pat McCrory and Bill Graham.
Bill Graham 37 Richard Moore 35
Bev Perdue 42 Bill Graham 38
Pat McCrory 38 Richard Moore 36
Bev Perdue 41 Pat McCrory 39
Richard Moore 40 Bob Orr 30
Bev Perdue 42 Bob Orr 36
Richard Moore 40 Fred Smith 32
Bev Perdue 43 Fred Smith 34
One thing that seems to be clear from the numbers is that Perdue is the candidate who makes it easiest for voters to make a decision- both for and against. She gets a higher percentage of support than Richard Moore against every Republican opponent. But the various Republican candidates all get a higher percentage of the vote against her than Moore as well. There are a lot fewer undecided respondents when Perdue's in the mix, probably because she's the best known candidate and the one voters are most likely to have a strong opinion about one way or the other.
McCrory looks like the Republicans' strongest candidate. Not only does he hold a slight lead against Richard Moore, but he pulls a good chunk of the Democratic respondents- 16% against Perdue and 18% against Moore while Fred Smith, currently leading in our polls for the primary gets only 7% and 6% of the Democratic support against Perdue and Moore respectively.
Greater support for Perdue than Moore among women is the key to her leading Graham and McCrory while Moore trails. Perdue leads McCrory by 11 points in that demographic while Moore's lead is just 4. Against Bill Graham, Moore trails by two points among female respondents while Perdue leads by six. Clearly there are some political benefits to Perdue's status as the most viable female candidate for governor North Carolina has ever seen.
Another key area of strength for Perdue relative to Moore is among African American respondents. While Perdue polls at 70% or above in all four match ups in this key Democratic party demographic, Moore's performance ranges from 43-57% with a good deal of undecideds. Moore may not be as well known as Perdue right now to African American respondents, but he will likely perform as well as Perdue with black voters if he does end up receiving the nomination.
White voters prefer the Republican candidate in six out of eight possible contests. Moore is more popular than Perdue among white voters in all of the match ups except the ones against Pat McCrory.
Regionally the only big disparities between the races are Perdue's strong performance in eastern North Carolina relative to Moore and McCrory's strong performance relative to the other Republican contenders in the Charlotte area. While the Republican candidate draws 31-43% of the support in the other six match ups, McCrory gets over 60% against both Moore and Perdue in his regional base. In the east Moore gets 34-44% in all four of his match ups but Perdue clears 50% in all of them.
Bottom line: with four out of six candidates leading in at least one of these polls the race is wide open.
Full results here.