Purdue was elected governor in 2008 by 50.3% against 46.9% for a strong Republican contender, Pat McCrory. Purdue was the beneficiary of a splendid campaign apparatus that delivered North Carolina to Barack Obama, but no one had reason to believe that her gubernatorial term would implode. She had served eight years as Lieutenant Governor, and she was first elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1986. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Florida. In short, she's not stupid and she's not a political novice.
Why was the Purdue administration such a fiasco? There is no single failure to point to. From the outset there were gripes that Purdue often failed to show leadership and that when she did, her leadership was uninspiring, indecisive, off the mark, or out of sync with Democrats in the General Assembly. There were gripes that her staff and appointees acted clumsily or in an uncoordinated manner -- in contrast to not only her Vader-like predecessor Mike Easley, but also his charismatic predecessor Jim Hunt. The character of Sally Field in Forrest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid does." In Purdue's case one can say, Inept is as inept does (or does not).
It's not merely that Purdue leaves a legacy of profound disappointment. The mid-term election of 2010 was a catastrophe for Democrats who lost control of both houses of the General Assembly. Purdue bears partial accountability, if not partial blame, for the outcome. Republicans took full advantage of their victory by redistricting the state to perpetuate Republican office-holders for 10 years. The second and third most powerful Democrats in the state, former President pro tem of the Senate Marc Basnight and former Speaker of the House Joe Hackney, will be off stage at year's end. The near-term future of Democrats is the hands of the little-known gubernatorial nominee Walter Dalton, whose C.V. in elected office is eerily similar to Purdue's.
McCrory is running again, this time against the underwhelming Dalton. If Republicans control both the governor's office and the General Assembly -- seems likely to me, unless Obama provides powerful coat-tails again -- there's no telling what nonsense will be enacted on Jones Street and signed by McCrory. The half of the train that hasn't already come off the tracks will hit the ground in 2013.
By the way, here's a video of a real train wreck. Skip forward to the 3:30 mark. No one was injured, but it shows why experienced railroaders never stand too close to the tracks.