Pat McCrory vetoed the bill that would allow magistrates to opt out of marrying gay people. Or as Carolina Mercury publisher Kirk Ross said on Facebook, “McCrory announces re-election bid.” Like a lot that happens in Raleigh, McCrory’s veto was as much about politics as it was about policy.

McCrory is running hard to center. In his first year as governor, he went along for the ride while the legislature shifted hard right on both social and fiscal issues. Now, he needs to undo some of the damage and get back to the guy who ran for office in 2012 as the centrist, pro-business Republican.

Next up for the governor is the abortion issue. The legislature is poised to pass one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the country. Throughout McCory’s tenure, social conservatives in the General Assembly have steadily been trying to limit access to the procedure. During a televised debate in the 2012 campaign, McCrory clearly and forcefully pledged not to sign legislation that would limit women’s access to abortion.

McCrory may just decline to sign the bill and let it become law. However, he will face strong criticism if he does. That’s just politics, not leadership, and voters will see through it.

Besides, the campaign issue is not so much abortion as credibility and honesty. If the bill becomes law, McCrory looks like just another politician who will say anything to get elected. Coupled with a number of other errant statements, McCrory clearly comes across as a guy who has trouble with the truth. It’s why we haven’t seen that freewheeling, unscripted governor in awhile.

McCrory has to walk a bit of a tightrope, though. While he’s trying to reclaim the middle, he has to watch his right flank. Social conservatives on twitter bashed him for caving to the “radical gay agenda.”  A veto of the abortion bill might attract a primary challenge. While it probably wouldn’t be successful, it would be a distraction that the governor doesn’t need in what will almost certainly be a tough re-election campaign.

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