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Vincent Gray opens commanding lead on Fenty, Washington Post poll finds


Five months after launching a mayoral challenge once thought unlikely, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray has built an imposing lead over incumbent Adrian M. Fenty.

Among registered voters surveyed by The Washington Post, Gray leads Fenty 49 to 36 percent. Among likely voters, Gray's lead expands to 53 to 36 percent -- a 17-point spread.

Read Nikita Stewart and Jon Cohen's full story on the poll result. The margin of error for register voters is plus or minus three percent; for likely voters, four percent.

The explanation for Fenty's poor performance is clear: His support among African-Americans has simply cratered. Only 19 percent of black voters are supporting Fenty to Gray's 64 percent. Gray voters are more enthusiastic in their support for their candidate and less likely to change their vote. Fenty does as well among white voters as Gray does among blacks, but Gray captures nearly 30 percent of whites.

As I recently discussed on this blog, the racial makeup of the city electorate is a matter of some debate. The Post poll finds likely voters to be 63 percent black -- slightly higher than the 60 percent found in our 2006 pre-primary poll, which closely predicted the election result. A recent poll by Clarus Research Group found Gray and Fenty in a statistical tie among a sample that was 52 percent black. According to the Post's modeling, Gray would still have a significant lead if the electorate were evenly split.

So Fenty might hold out hope that the electorate will end up being significantly whiter than our poll says it will be. But we like our numbers -- we call a random numbers from a citywide list and then screen respondents for the likelihood that they will vote. It's the gold-standard method of scientific pollsters, the method Post pollsters used in 2006, which, as I mentioned, predicted the primary result pretty darn well.

Our sample includes cell phones to compensate for any biases of no-landline households. It is D.C. in August, meaning a significant number of households may well be out of town. But Post pollsters have tried to compensate for that by extending the calling over eight days -- nearly twice as long as typical polls. One real wild card is the impact of same-day registration and early voting, which starts Monday.

So aside from any other developments in the race over the next 17 days, the Fenty camp needs to hope that white turnout trends way up, that their GOTV operation is thorough, and that perhaps that word of such a commanding lead might dampen enthusiasm among Gray's supporters.

Check Monday's paper for my analysis of how Fenty went from a 142-precinct sweep to this precarious situation.

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 29, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray  
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Delightful, DeBonis: a reporter who knows and reports germane factors about sample design, call back, and modeling for predicting election outcomes.

Cute, too, to accept the earlier Clarus's demographic composition assumption to test the robustness of the current forcast with the WaPo poll candidate preferences.

What has changed in the last few weeks? The Mayor has further cemented his non-responsiveness in voters' minds. It isn't that Gray has been brilliant.
The Mayor famously having his hands all over electronic devices all the time implies "hands on" knowledge, even if he delegates. Given the opportunity to show that hands-on knowledge, the Mayor has been a no-show too often, or shown himself mostly able to lip-synch and voice what comes through an earpiece from advisors.

Posted by: incredulous | August 29, 2010 1:48 AM | Report abuse

it is impossible that any sitting mayor could be so out of touch with reality as Adrian Fenty.

His white handlers. Nickles, Elias et all,
told fenty to go play with his bike while they run the city. Fenty went and played with his bike and look what happened.

the people realized that fenty was a puppet for the boys in the back room and lo' and behold they want an end to the puppet show.

I am sure in the weeks and months ahead Fenty will undergo a great deal of scrutiny as will his 'deals' and his fraternity brothers

the people of dc black and white are the losers of the oligarchy controling the city. no one won in this game and the DC voters are going to change the lineup from the top down.

fenty needs to go.

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | August 29, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

JohnAdams1-Thank you! You are absolutely on point.

Posted by: Sunni11 | August 29, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

It's not about race, Mike. It's about respect for the overall community. It's about economic status. It's about how deep your roots are in D.C. Skin color doesn't matter here -- the racial results just happen to be what they are because D.C. has had a black-majority population for so long. You and the rest of the folks at the Post are misinterpreting these polls when you focus on race.

Posted by: Kathy8 | August 29, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Folks, this is Debonis' attempt to rally the troops, specifically white voters. He must do what his bosses tel himl or its the door. and Debonis, I bet you had a glowering yearly evaluation.

You and your wp people keep trying to make this race, a matter of race. so who is playing the race card now as whites constantly say when blacks yell racism?

Like the Deltas say" Soros to the floor", you are trying to issue a rally cry to white residents that everybody must come to the polls or how darling boy will lose. Sorry Dumbonis. too late. should have been rallying 2 years ago and get your boy a personality.

Posted by: dcresident8 | August 29, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Not only does Fenty need to be kicked to the curb, so does his dancing monkey Peter Nickles!

Posted by: ashafer_usa | August 29, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

!Johnadams..great great post. The washingtonpost is throwing everything including the kitchen sink. This post along w/ the editorial on the theft of DC's citzens $83 million being okey dokey, to Big G losing his job.

I guess the washpo is throwing a hail mary for Fenty.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | August 29, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Hmm. This is a disturbingly racial column, DeBonis. I know the Post is in the tank for Fenty, but making a racial call to arms to Whites is pretty low class. you guys are relaly out of touch. This election is not about race. Both candidates are African-American. This is about an electorate that is PISSED OFF at an administration that is ignoring them, disrespecting them and is looting the city treasury to favor a select few. THis has got to stop and it WILL STOP Sept. 13th.

Posted by: PepperDr | August 29, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Wha? "Racial call to arms?" Get real, kids. DiBoner spent most of the column telling you why the Post's poll methodology was valid. Remember what the polls shows? Fenty campaign is swirling around the bowl. Being a journalist and all, DiB then discussed what Fenty's last hopes are. That's what real journalists do, write stories that are reasonably balanced.

Graysters who think DiBster is biased against their guy should take heart that the Post's editorial board surely thinks DiBbbbbon screwed up their pro-Fenty campaign by highlighting the reliability of the poll showing Fenty heading for unemployment.

Posted by: getjiggly | August 29, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

This is an extremely well-done poll, with a robust sample size (1,227 adults were contacted, 780 were registered Democrats) and well-crafted questions. Kudos to the WaPo for always posting the full questionnaire.

Not surprising, because SRBI is the best in the business of live-operator telephone polls.

The print version of the Sunday Post is laughable. An unconventional pie chart on p.1 tries to obfuscate Gray's lead among all Dem voters by highlighting the total of 34% (truly undecided PLUS soft Fenty voters PLUS soft Gray voters) which they label "could change mind, other, undecided, no opinion"), as if one-third of DC Dems are in a quandry.

Then inside the jump page from the p.1 poll story is illustrated with one giant photo of smiling Rhee and Fenty, and one giant photo of CM Marion Barry hugging Gray.

The opinion section leads off with a trite "analysis" that boils down to "voters are ingrates," written by a guy who left town on vacation during the time Gray was building this lead.

Lame try, Post. BTW, if Rhee is re-elected Chancellor, is she committed to keeping Fenty as Mayor?

Posted by: Trulee | August 29, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Nice post Trulee

The print edition of the WP is used to wrap fish now days. Subscriptions are down and by the end of this election only Fenty and Rhee will put any credence to what this once great paper has to say.

We can count on the WP to be fair and balance. If folks can be swayed by a picture of Rhee and Fenty, the election would be over and the WP would not have to try so hard. WP = Ron Moten.

Posted by: guylady201001 | August 29, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I am following Mr. DeBonis's twitters about the press conference our Big City Mayor held an hour or two ago.

Having strategist Ron Moten organize a press conference for Big G to claim Gray got him fired from WKYS is an unorthodox way for Team Fenty to gin up turnout in vote-rich Wards 2 and 3.

I hope Georgetown Dish runs the photo of the Big City Mayor, strategist Moten, and the Big Man himself, Big G--it's in DeBonis's twit pics.

Did any salaried reporter at this event have the wit to ask Mayor Fenty why he wrote a letter to the judge on behalf of Big G back when Big G was getting arrested on gun charges and Fenty was his Councilmember?

Posted by: Trulee | August 29, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

check out this link showing Fenty and his band of thugs.

I wonder why the POST is not showing this on this site.

Posted by: guylady201001 | August 29, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

This poll and the likely outcome on Sept 14 provide yet another bit of proof that Washington DC is two cities in one. Many east coast cities are similar in that the racial dynamic is so pervasive in city politcs (and around the country as well but the East Coast even more so IMO). Its ironic to me that Fenty did not know how to deal with this situation politically, given his upbringing in the city and the 2006 vote. Its disappointing to so many people that he didn't prove himself to be a uniter, which I think is the mayor's role.

It seems like Fenty has not understood that mayors work with people and are not at odds with them. He might be better as a hard-charging department head (eg Rhee) who bangs people's heads but gets results (for the mayor).

What's awesome about all of this is that accountability is meted out by the public in fair elections. The people decide on September 14th.

Its a close call for me as I have personally benefited from Fenty policies. I think he deserves another term despite his personal and political shortcomings. But I can totally see why the tide has turned against him and I think Gray would not be a disaster in office unless he uses patronage and is fiscally irresponsible.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | August 29, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Just studied the full polling report. The given voter concerns and then candidate aren't coherent. Voters claim to care most about issues; and on those, except the economy, they say DC is better now, and on the right track. There's not an explanation for Gray's rise within the responses about Fenty, taken literally, except personal ones: They don't find Fenty sympathetic and don't trust him.
I'm not saying the survey was badly done, but that an underlying image that voters choose their own image of most qualified candidate to accomplish policy goals doesn't apply.

Put differently, it is as though the fraction sufficient to swing this to Gray, at this time, were daily Loose Lips readers of DeBonis (at WCP) who feasted further on collected WCP stories of Fenty frat bro corruption and Rhee disingenuousness. As though WCP content-readers vote. Right.

Comments on voter likes and dislikes in the survey?

Posted by: incredulous | August 29, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Damn it, do not paint all of the Kappa's with the same brush!! A lot of his fraternity brothers are embarrassed and hurt by this fool.. There is a small army of Kappa's working hard for Gray.. And some of these Kappa's have Fenty signs in their yards, but 100% for Gray.....

Posted by: BILLJA | August 29, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Come back and explain how closeted Gray-supporting Kaapas with Fenty signs on their yards is an endorsement for Kappa? I'm struggling to understand whether these guys deserve the sympathy due Spanish Conversos during the Inquisition or what's due former Republican Party Chair Ken Mehlman, who recently came out.

Help me /us with this Black college fraternity thing. Or do I have to refresh from books on Howard U, class and tone? Better, get WaPo to print a long piece on this topic they've neglected for a long time, which has so much to do with the structure of power in DC.

Posted by: incredulous | August 29, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

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