Democrats counter that's it's not all bad news in the Tar Heel State; the smaller field allows them to avoid a nasty, divisive primary, with no clear leaders, they say. Whatever the outcome of the primary, Republicans have a top recruit waiting in the wings. Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, Perdue's 2008 opponent, has been raising money and revving up a campaign operation that will be formidable.
Republicans are even finding opportunities in at least one deeply blue state. No Republican has won the governor's mansion in Washington State since 1980, but Attorney General Rob McKenna is running strong so far. He's leading Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee by nine points in a recent Elway Poll, and he's running way ahead among independents.
It's not all bad news for Democrats; the party has another target in Wisconsin, where an all-but-certain recall election puts Scott Walker's job into serious jeopardy. The recall, likely to take place early this summer, will serve as an early hint on the leanings of a very divided electorate.
"If [Democrats] can steal one from the Republicans in a year like 2012, that's a huge victory," said former DGA executive director Nathan Daschle.
And Democrats should be happy about the 2011 the party had; they held governor's mansions in Kentucky and West Virginia, beating back Republican efforts to steal a seat.
Elsewhere this year, there are a couple of open contests in Montana, New Hampshire, which are true tossups at this point.
"Our goal is to have the largest number of Republican governors in American history by this November," RGA Chairman Bob McDonnell said in speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month. The high water mark came in 1921 and 1922, when the party had 34 governors in office. More recently, the party had 32 in office in 1998. There are currently 29 Republican governors.
With the pickup opportunities the GOP has, eclipsing 32 is not out of the question.
"30 is magical number. Given how polarized America is politically, to have 30 governors of one party would be significant," said former RGA deputy executive director Paul Bennecke.