posted on January 05, 2011 15:10
Bev Perdue’s poll numbers have been upside down – meaning her ‘unpopularity’ is greater than her ‘popularity’ – almost since the day she took office.
Twenty-seven years ago Jesse Helms faced similar ‘upside down’ poll numbers; his pollster Arthur Finkelstein gently explained the root of the problem was what he called a ‘character issue.’
Back then when Jesse used to rear up on his hind legs and let fly with both barrels, say, at Ted Kennedy those of us who supported him hurrahed that ‘Jesse was fighting for principle’ – but not everybody felt that way. In fact, most people felt Jesse was being just plain ornery.
‘Ornery’ is a ‘character’ issue.
And Perdue has one of her own. And it may be worse than Jesse’s.
Worse because Jesse’s way of dealing with opponents was, well, rough edged but his stands weren’t unpopular at all. Most voters agreed with him. And Jesse’s ideology worked in his favor.
Unlike Jesse, ideologically, Perdue’s in a mess. She got elected by embracing Obama but she’s paid a price – embracing her national Democratic cousins landed her in office as North Carolina’s first left of center Governor, which is no place to be politically.
In addition she’s in a mess because the liberal shoe doesn’t fit. If anything, Perdue’s almost completely non-ideological. One day she’s railing against tax increases. The next she introduces a budget that raises taxes a billion dollars.
No doubt the Governor would like to get shed of the liberal label but right now her support is so decimated that her base has been reduced to the left-wing of the Democratic Party and staunch Democratic loyalists like African-Americans. Being ‘left of center’ is no place to be in North Carolina politics but given Perdue’s 35% Favorable rating there’s a real risk if next she alienates her own party’s ideologues.
Plus, while Jesse may have been seen as mean nobody ever doubted his competence – and sometimes mean and competent was a pretty good combination. Perdue, on the other hand, chirrups. And vacillates. Which leaves her with a deadly character problem: The perception that she is ‘in over her head’ may be unfair but that cement has been hardening for two years and she may find changing it is like chiseling granite.
Of course, she has one other alternative: Back in 1984 Jesse was never going to be able to convince voters he was actually a warm and fuzzy grandfather figure but he was able to convince them his ‘orneriness’ was less important than Jim Hunt’s ‘flip-flops.’ So Perdue has a choice: She can ignore her other problems and set to work convincing voters that, whatever her flaws, her Republican opposition is worse.
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