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Here are some of the other stories catching our attention.

McCrory's Political Teasing Has Advantages

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. align=left

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory will almost surely make another run for the governor's office in 2012, but so far he's only hinting at a "big announcement" he plans to make early next year. There are some strategic advantages to McCrory delaying his formal announcement while still acting like a candidate.

Pat McCrory would have us believe he's doing us all a favor by waiting until after the first of the year to formally announce his candidacy for governor. In a new video on his campaign website, McCrory says the delay is because "campaigns have become too long and too costly."

"Elections are barely over before candidates are off and running again," says McCrory. "Frankly the political season wears on everybody - especially during these tough times."

"It's a pretty funny thing for him to say," says Gary Pearce, a long-time Democratic strategist in Raleigh who blogs at talkingaboutpolitics.com. "It looks to me like he's basically been running a campaign since the last election."

After Pat McCrory lost to Bev Perdue in 2008, he could have disbanded his campaign committee, but he chose to keep it active so he could go right on raising money for his next run - more than $1 million to date. Governor Bev Perdue did the same thing, and that means both of them are required to report their fundraising activities as full-blown candidates, whether or not they've made it official.

But until McCrory comes right out and says "I am running for governor," he does have a bit more flexibility in the ways he can get his name and face in front of people. For example, he can keep on voicing robo-calls for the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, as long as he's not an official candidate. Groups like that can't coordinate with campaigns. McCrory can also keep doing his regular gig as a pundit on local TV and travelling the state as a guest speaker for nonprofit groups that may not want to appear as if they're endorsing him.

Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer says this "wink-wink-nothing's-official-yet" routine has its benefits. "It is the appearance of being a candidate without the stranglehold of the regulations for being a candidate," says Bitzer.

Oh, and nothing excites donors or attracts free publicity like a good tease. Plus, Bitzer says McCrory can afford to hold off on a formal announcement because it's looking unlikely he'll face a tough challenge in the Republican primary. By law, McCrory has until noon on February 29, 2012 to file his papers and break out the campaign buttons.