Governors' primary contests in North Carolina and Indiana in May could get an unexpected influx of voters if the still undecided Democratic presidential race lumbers on.
Hillary Clinton's victories March 4 over rival Barack Obama in the Ohio and Texas primaries means the Democrats' 2008 presidential nominating machine will focus next on Pennsylvania April 22, before moving on to North Carolina and Indiana May 6.
Unlike voters in the 45 states who have already made their White House picks in primaries or caucuses, voters in the Tar Heel and Hoosier states will be the first to consider gubernatorial contenders at the same time they make their presidential preferences.
"The spectacle of a contested primary will bring more folks to the polls in North Carolina," said Dean Debham, president of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh. The polling firm reported that 75% of those surveyed March 3 said they would be more likely to vote if the primary would influence the nominee for president.
On the flip side, John McCain's clinching the GOP presidential nod is worrying some North Carolina Republicans concerned that their voters will stay home for the primary and not choose among five GOP candidates for governor, including Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and state Sen. Fred Smith. "We'll have to work hard to get our voters to the polls," said Brent Woodcox, state Republican Party spokesman.
On the Democratic side, the state's current lieutenant governor, Bev Perdue, has nearly doubled her lead over her closest competitor, state Treasurer Richard Moore, according to Public Policy Polling's March 5 survey. The North Carolina race is wide-open because incumbent Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat, is term-limited and cannot run again.
In Indiana, Republican incumbent Gov. Mitch Daniels is unopposed, but the Democratic ballot will carry two names: Jim Schellinger, an architect, and Jill Long Thompson, a former congresswoman who has the backing of EMILY's List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women running for office, including Clinton.
Read the full report Presidential Calendar Boosts '08 Govs' Races on Stateline.org's Web site.