Bev Perdue continues to trail Pat McCrory in a hypothetical reelection contest, but as her approval numbers have improved over the last few months she's beginning to close the gap a little bit. McCrory leads by 7 points at 47-40. That represents a five point gain for Perdue since she trailed by 12 in a November PPP poll at 49-37.
The biggest key to Perdue's improvement is a resurgence with independents. Where she trailed McCrory by 31 points with them a couple months ago that margin is now down to 10 points. Independents were strongly supportive of the government reorganization plans that Perdue put forward to much attention a month ago and the Governor is also probably benefiting from a general warming toward Democrats from those voters since the beginning of the year. Numerous recent polls have found Barack Obama with his best numbers among independents since early in his Presidency.
Perdue's 10 point deficit with independents is actually almost identical to the 7 point loss with them we found on our final North Carolina poll in 2008. The main reason Perdue is running poorly compared to the last election is mediocre numbers with Democrats. She leads only 65-21 with them right now where she had an 80-17 advantage the last time around. Perdue's lackluster approval numbers since she took office can be blamed more than anything else on her relatively poor standing with Democrats. Finding a way to keep the party base in line over the next 21 months is probably the key to her winning a second term.
Meanwhile McCrory continues to be well liked at least with the voters that still know who he is. A plurality in the state at 45% have no opinion of him either way but among those who do 33% rate him favorably to 22% who see him unfavorably. His favorability runs 4:1 positive with Republicans at 43/11 and impressively there are almost as many Democrats- 26%- with a positive opinion of him as a negative one- 27%. A few rounds of negative advertising would likely plunge his favorability numbers across party lines pretty darn quick, but at least for now he's doing well on that front.
If the election was today Perdue would lose, pretty much no doubt about that. But it's not and I think some folks have been a little quick to write her political obituary. If she's gained five points on McCrory in two months, well out from the election, then it's certainly possible that she could make up the other seven in the next 21 months. It's not going to be easy by any means but it's too early to write her off.
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