Democratic Governors Association Abandons Mission to Cheer on Obama

Rather than getting governors elected, the Democratic Governors Association is focusing on the White House.

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News that North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue will not seek re-election should not be a surprise. From tax increases and staff indictments to a bizarre trip to a Kentucky racetrack and even more bizarre explanations as to when Perdue would/did return to the state, her chances for re-election efforts were bound to be uphill.

What is notable, however, is that despite Perdue's service as co-chair of the Democratic Governors Association, or DGA, the association rarely, if ever, went to bat for her. One need only look at the DGA's Twitter feed (@DemGovs), which promotes the many television appearances of its chairman, Gov. Martin O'Malley, and repeatedly attacks Republican governors not up for re-election in the 2012 cycle, such as Govs. Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rick Scott, but has mentioned Perdue only twice since Labor Day, both times in passing.

[Read Doug Heye: Why North Carolina's Perdue Is the Most Endangered Governor]

And despite poll after poll showing Governor Perdue losing to Republican candidate and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the only North Carolina-specific tweet from the DGA since Labor Day was one about Gov. Rick Perry's disparaging comments about North Carolina BBQ. In other words, the DGA has made little effort, thus far, to even demonstrate that North Carolina is in play at the gubernatorial level.

This silence from the DGA, whose staff is well-respected across party lines for its smarts, is revealing. Scratching the surface, a pattern appears suggesting the DGA is more intent on re-electing President Barack Obama than following its stated mission: recruiting and re-electing Democratic governors.

DGA Action, a Super-PAC aligned with the DGA, has launched new media attacks but on the Republican presidential candidates—not Republican governors or gubernatorial candidates.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Super-PACs.]

Meanwhile, O'Malley, whose national ambitions are no secret, has been a constant presence on television more focused on boosting President Obama's re-election than the electoral hopes of Democratic governors or gubernatorial candidates. While Republican Governors Association Chair Gov. Bob McDonnell was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Saturday, January 14, for a town hall, O'Malley scarcely mentioned McDonnell or any governors during his numerous interviews from South Carolina. Indeed, a Washington Post story chronicling O'Malley's South Carolina visit was headlined “O'Malley gets in swings at Romney ahead of GOP field.”

This stands in stark contrast to the Republican Governor's Association (@The_RGA), whose chairs—McDonnell and co-chair Gov. Chris Christie—while certainly national figures who have spent time in GOP primary states, have also remained focused both on their day jobs in their respective states and doing the necessary work of the RGA; the RGA outraised the DGA by more than a 2-to-1 ratio in 2011, despite the fundraising boost that should come with controlling the White House.

Patrick McCrory will announce his gubernatorial bid next week in Greensboro, N.C. No doubt, the DGA will be on the attack, attempting to paint McCrory as somehow unsuitable to Tar Heel voters. One can't help but think, however, had the DGA followed its prime directive and buttressed the clearly vulnerable incumbent governor, perhaps McCrory would be facing a candidate with the advantages of incumbency instead of campaigning for an open seat—and that Democrats in other potentially competitive seats might stand a better chance with a DGA focused on governors instead of the White House.

  • Read the U.S. News debate: Are Super PACs Harming U.S. Politics?
  • Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.
  • See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates