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While the political world focused on Pennsylvania Tuesday, Bev Perdue’s supporters gave a sigh of relief.

She survived the live TV debate with Richard Moore.

Her campaign has gone to great lengths to minimize her unscripted appearances – in debates and with the media. Her handlers’ lack of confidence is palpable.

Moore was surprisingly mild in the debate. No attack dog. He may have feared looking too mean – especially against a female opponent.

But he missed a chance to force her into a mistake.

Some of us remember the 1988 in the race for Lieutenant Governor between Democrat Tony Rand and Republican Jim Gardner.

Gardner, silver-haired and silver-tongued, jumped all over Rand, who was stumbling and unsteady.

At one point, Gardner gnawed on Rand about his part in the “Gang of Four” that wrote the legislative budget. Not fair, Rand protested: “There were six or seven people in that room.”

The debate had almost no audience. But the N&O ran a front page story quoting Democrats dismayed by Rand’s performance.

Gardner won, then went on to lose to Jim Hunt in the 1992 Governor’s race. Rand wisely decided his career path should be Senate insider, not statewide candidate.

Moore has proved unable, so far, to crack Perdue’s lead.

Part of his problem may prove to be his failure to establish a strong positive, progressive message. Too often, Moore came across as the perfect Republican candidate: a good money manager, tough on crime.

That’s not a good fit with today’s Democratic primary electorate. This is a Mommy party, not a Daddy party.

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