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Fenty turns to focus groups to focus his message


As mayor, Adrian Fenty has made it clear that he loves hard data. He's been stalwart about collecting and analyzing city agency performance numbers --through the CapStat program, the new Web site, and an online data catalog.

But as a candidate, he's never put much stock in numbers. When exploring his first mayoral campaign, back in 2005, Fenty did extensive polling but hasn't done much since. (His campaign did conduct brief voter ID calls last weekend, as rival Vincent Gray's campaign did last month.)

Rather, Fenty has preferred to gauge the feelings of the electorate via handshakes and front-stoop conversations.

But, he's discovered, those methods have their limits. So, faced with trying to hone a message that combats the growing voter perception that he's arrogant and out of touch, he's turned to a new tool: focus groups.

The groups, where a dozen or so voters discuss a topic with the help of a moderator, are common to modern, well-financed campaigns. But Fenty has prided himself on embracing the shoe-leather approach above all else, and the new tactics reflect the challenges he faces in moving from an insurgent, outsider campaign to defending his three years as mayor. The utility of the groups, campaign sources say, is seeing how voters react at length to what Fenty is saying and what he's doing.

Campaign chairman Bill Lightfoot had no comment on the survey.

Additional reporting by Nikita Stewart; photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 8, 2010; 1:43 PM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District  
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Next: Don Peebles: Still thinking


"As mayor, Adrian Fenty has made it clear that he loves hard data."

And yet he refuses to hire a rate setting expert to really analyze where the taxicab rates should be set. What about that data?

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 8, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

We gave Adrian a chance, now he need to come home. He have proven without a doubt that he is way too immature to lead this great city.

Posted by: william3434 | June 10, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

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