There was a lot of speculation in the days leading up to Hurricane Irene about how her handling of it would affect Bev Perdue's political fortunes and the answer is in: she passed with flying colors. 64% of voters in the state approve of how Perdue dealt with Irene to only 20% disapproving. She gets strong support from across the party spectrum on that front with Democrats (80/11), independents (65/15), and Republicans (43/36) all giving her good marks. The most important number for Perdue might be in northeastern North Carolina. That's where she's from and she did very well there in 2008 but her numbers there have lagged over the course of her time in office. She gets stronger marks for her leadership on Irene there than anywhere else in the state with 72% thinking she handled it well. She's going to need to do well there to get a second term and this may be a first step toward restroring her standing with voters in her home region.
Perdue's good reviews on the Hurricane are positively impacting her overall approval numbers as well. 40% of voters approve of Perdue to 44% disapproving this month. This is the first time since April of 2009 that Perdue's approval has hit the 40% mark in a PPP poll. To give you an idea of how far she's come back, in September of 2009 only 26% of voters approved of her with 54% disapproving. Perdue's almost breaking even with independents at 42/44, in contrast to what's usually been a high level of unpopularity with them.
Perdue's made a lot of progress but make no mistake- she'd still lose if she had to stand for reelection today. She trails Pat McCrory 45-41 in a hypothetical head to head match up. That is the closest Perdue's come to McCrory in our polling since 2008 though and it's a major improvement from 6 months ago when McCrory led her by 14 points at 50-36. The key to Perdue's progress on that front is Democrats are starting to unite around her a little bit with 70% saying they'd vote for her if the election was today. That's the first time she's gotten out of the 60s with her own party. Even if more independents are approving of Perdue though she still has a lot of work left to do to win their votes- McCrory leads 56-31 with that critical bloc of voters.
We tested a couple of Republicans besides McCrory against Perdue this month and she leads both of them. It's a 42-37 advantage over Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and a 45-35 one over Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. Those numbers are a reminder that Perdue's troubles for reelection aren't all about her- she'd have a pretty good chance against 'just any' Republican candidate but McCrory doesn't fit that bill. He's an unusually strong and formidable opponent. Most striking about him is that 45% of independent voters have a favorable opinion of him to only 15% with a negative one. But there's a reason we tested alternatives to McCrory on this poll- with Republicans his favorability is only 46% and as primary numbers we'll release next week show, his nomination is not a completely foregone conclusion.
Perdue's in the best shape she's been in several years and has climbed a long way back. There's still a good distance to go on that mountain though.
Full results here