News is breaking tonight that Governor Mike Easley, who has been reluctant to cast his support in past presidential primaries, has publicly endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, giving a much needed superdelegate boast after her win in Pennsylvania. With both Democratic candidates (Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore) supporting Sen. Obama, it would appear that the division among Democratic Tar Heel elites mirrors that of other states, especially akin to the most recent primary election in Pennsylvania (U.S. Senator Bob Casey and Governor Ed Rendell on opposite sides).
So what might Gov. Mike's support mean? Most importantly, it helps Clinton with the group that she has been doing best with--rural voters. Easley's past political support has been from the rural areas, and with Clinton doing extremely well with rural voters (in PA's exit poll, she beat Obama 63%-37%; in OH's exit poll, she beat him 70%-26%), she could easily erase the double-digit lead he has in the Tar Heel state and become very competitive here--but there's only a week to go. Of course, a lot of this is tied to how much Gov. Easley will be willing to actually go out and stump for her; Mike has been known around Raleigh (and the state) as someone with "better things to do" than necessarily govern. But if he were to actively go out and publicly support her, it may help build that country vote to counter Obama's strength in urban areas--which will leave the primary election's battleground (once again) to the suburbanities.
North Carolina seems to have some easy comparisons and contradictions to how Pennsylvania voted: most importantly, if Clinton can come with single-digits of Obama (or, even most improbable, beat him), then the Democratic race will enter a new stratosphere of confusion and chaos.