WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY'S THE RANT) -- There are few greater signs of failure in politics then a term-limited incumbent choosing not to run for reelection. Gov. Bev Perdue can say she chose not to run again so she could spend her final year in office fighting for education, but there's little doubt that she chose to pass on a run for a second term to avoid what many expected to be a potentially embarrassing loss in November. But the way things are going, she'll be hard pressed to avoid embarrassment in general.
There was talk, though it's been denied, that national Democratic leaders pushed her to give up to avoid her dragging down President Obama in a state believed to be critical to his reelection campaign. If that is the case, well, it's starting to look like not having Perdue on the ballot won't be much help.
Friday may have been a rock-bottom moment of sorts for Perdue. In the wake of North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approving a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and perhaps having other, unintended impacts in the state, Perdue, who waited as long as she could to take a stance on the issue at all and did little publicly to bolster the opposition movement, decided to rail against the 1.3 million of her constituents who voted for it. She also took an unnecessary swipe at another state.
"People are saying, 'What in the world is going on with North Carolina?' We look like Mississippi," Perdue told reporters in Greenville.
Now, I grew up in South Carolina, where people used the phrase "Thank God for Mississippi" to defend nearly-bottom-of-the-barrel rankings so often it should be the Palmetto State's official motto. But when a sitting governor actually uses such a stereotypical and insulting statement about the social history of another state, justified or not, that's just sad, and it shows how far Perdue's tenure in the state's highest office has fallen.
As I said, Perdue is trying to champion education in her final months. File it under "Too little too late." Remember, it was her first budget in 2009, passed by a Democratic-controlled General Assembly, that froze teacher pay and initiated massive cuts in the education budget. She didn't like when I asked her in June 2009 if the educators who endorsed her and helped get her elected got what they voted for and if she was still the "education governor" she promised to be.
"Let me tell you what: I will die being the education leader or the education governor," she told me, clearly annoyed if not enraged by my question. "I believe that I am doing as good a job as anybody in America can do, and I would dare anybody to come and challenge me on it."
Three years later, there's no need for such a challenge. Perdue is not just a lame duck governor. She is the lamest of ducks.
After leaving her party in a lurch with her decision not to run just as the candidate filing period began, the opposition party openly mocks her ideas, including an increased sales tax Perdue says will restore some of the cuts to education. In effect, she is tilting at windmills with the plan, which Republican leaders say has no chance of seeing the light of day in the General Assembly.
With North Carolina set to host her party's national convention in September, Perdue's relevance is quickly slipping away. When the DNC pulls into Charlotte Labor Day, she will not be elevated as the revered incumbent looking to fight on. She won't be celebrated as a popular leader heading into the sunset. Will she even be invited to speak from the podium? If so, she can only hope the delegates from Mississippi treat her with respect. After all, they don't want to look like North Carolina. Or at least its governor.