Politics
Democratic North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler (Photo: AP) Democratic North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler (Photo: AP)  

Blue day for North Carolina’s Democratic Party

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

North Carolina’s Democratic Party just had a terrible day, and so President Barack Obama’s re-election team had a bad day, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi had an off day.

The most plausible Democratic candidate for governor — Erskine Bowles — stepped out of the race to replace departing Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. The lead Democrat in the state House announced his retirement, and a much-touted conservative Democrat in the federal House of Representatives announced his decision to not seek re-election.

The three doses of bad news matter for Obama, because he decided to put his re-election convention in the state in the hope of again snatching its 15 electoral votes in November.

In 2008, Obama won the state by only one third of one percent.

That will be difficult to repeat with the state’s Democratic Party in retreat, and the Republicans increasingly confident.

Their confidence was buttressed by news that state Senate’s Republican president, Phil Berger, raised more money that all of the 19 Democratic senators in the minority.

The state’s Republican Party made sure to spread the news.

“First the Democrats threw a gutter ball when they went Bowles-ing, then former Speaker [Joe] Hackney stepped aside … and now [Rep.] Heath Shuler said ‘no thanks’ to running for re-election,” said Scott Laster, executive director of the North Carolina GOP.

“If I were the Obama for America team, I’d look at North Carolina and say ‘ruh-roh!’” he said.

Shuler’s departure is also bad news for Pelosi, who is trying to rebuild the House majority she held from 2006 to 2010.

That’s because he’s one of several Democrats who are retiring because Republican state legislatures have changed their districts to add more GOP voters.

Many retiring House Democrats are creating likely pick-ups for the GOP in 2012.

Shuler’s departure will also let the Democratic Party drift even more leftwards.

Shuler’s departure cuts the number of conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives to roughly 22.

Twenty-three so-called Blue Dogs were defeated in the 2010 election, six didn’t even run for re-election, and only 24 were seated in the current congress.

But Shuler’s departure will reduce their number to 22, following the earlier announcement that Dan Boren, a conservative Democrat from Oklahoma, would retire at the end of 2012.

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