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Fenty Losing His Grip? Loose Lips Daily

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Morning all. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty: Everyone knows he's had a bad year. A slip on the firetruck thing, a stumble on the pool heater, and a general haughtiness that casts doubt on his image as a champion of the everyday D.C. resident.

But does all that hurt his chances for re-election next year?

The Examiner kinda-sorta suggests that it does. On the front page of today's editions, it is shouting the news that just 30 percent of respondents in a recent poll say that the incumbent "definitely" has their vote.

You listening, Vince Gray?

From Michael Neibauer's piece: "The new poll, commissioned by the business-backed Nation's Capital Committee for Good Government, implies the incumbent's popularity has waned. Only 30 percent of respondents said they would "definitely" vote for him again, while 13 percent said definitely not, and 46 percent said they would consider someone else."

Implies? What does that mean. The problem with this piece is that there's no comparison with a previous set of polling numbers. The poll gives Fenty a 68 percent favorable rating and a 25 percent unfavorable rating. So, OK, fine—but compared to what? That question goes unanswered. Other points about the poll: It covers only registered Democratic voters in Wards 1, 3, and 6, leaving out Fenty's home base in Ward 4. It was commissioned by the Nation's Capital Committee for Good Government, a front for "downtown business interests," according to Neibauer. Those folks have never been too big on the mayor.

In a companion piece, Neibauer explains the implications of the poll for council races. The upshot? Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham and Ward 3 Councilmember Tommy Wells all appear safe.

Who isn't safe? Well, it's the same guy who's never safe. The guy who every four years has a target on his back, who the entire political class insists is vulnerable, whose days on the council are numbered. Yeah, Mendo: "At-large Councilman Phil Mendelson has the toughest road ahead, if the poll numbers are to be believed. Mendelson, who soundly defeated lawyer A. Scott Bolden three years ago, had the definitive support of only 32 percent of those surveyed. Thirty-four percent would consider a challenger, 8 percent would oppose Mendelson and 25 percent were undecided."

Examiner commentator Harry Jaffe also spins a piece out of the poll. Here's the key part: "Next most popular city official [after Fenty]? Council Chair Vince Gray? At-large member Kwame Brown? No and no. Most favorable ratings after Fenty went to schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. The hard-charging school reformer got high favorables in Ward 3 (69 percent), Ward 6 (58 percent) and Ward 1 (57 percent)."

Jaffe also gets a laugh line out of the data: "Attorney General Peter Nickles might not want to enter any popularity contests. His fave rating was 17 percent."

Examiner's Nei-man also covers the aimless wanderings of the mayor's "blue shirts."

CHARLES COUNTY COURTHOUSE MADNESS UPDATE! OK, we advertise LL Daily as providing as much D.C. politics as "humanly possible," but recent events compel coverage of the hinterlands. Seems that a judge in Charles County may have gotten pissed enough about parking hierarchies that he allegedly deflated the tire of a car belonging to a courthouse cleaning staffer. This gem comes courtesy of the Washington Post's Ruben Castaneda: "Jean Washington, the owner of the Toyota, said in an interview that she had just entered the courthouse for her work shift when a sheriff's deputy alerted her, 'Jean, you need to move your car. Judge Nalley's going to let the air out of it.'"

Tattoo parlor entrepreneur who allegedly killed her husband will be held in jail, not in a halfway house, as her lawyer had requested.

GOOD POINT DEPARTMENT: Post editorial notes that even though Congress long ago lifted its ban on the District's paying for needle-exchange programs, language in pending legislation could have the exact same effect: "The House voted to end a 21-year-old ban and allow federal funding of needle exchange programs. It also voted to allow the District to use its own money for such a program. There's one catch: the programs cannot be located 'within 1,000 feet of a public or private day care center, elementary school, vocational school, secondary school, college, junior college, or university, or any public swimming pool, park, playground, video arcade, or youth center, or an event sponsored by any such entity.' This would render whole sections of cities off-limits."

Verizon Center not doing it for you? Well, the Washington Biz Journal is reporting that reps from Madison Square Garden LP are scouting the District for a new location. "The sports, entertainment and media company began contacting the office of Valerie Santos, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, and major landowners in early summer, according to Steve Moore, executive director of the Washington, D.C., Economic Partnership. 'They are shopping the District ... They're very interested. It's a question of finding the right spot,' Moore said."

Also on the development front: See breakdown from Washington City Paper's Ruth Samuelson on Fenty's unveiling of Northwest One, the Walker Jones Education Campus.

Here's a scoop from NC8: The District is preparing to close its Brentwood DMV facility. It'll cease operations at the end of the day Friday.

Lots of gunplay out there on a summer eve: Seven shot, one killed in less than nine hours in the District, according to WUSA-TV.

Fenty Today:

9:15 am: Remarks, Wheatley Elementary School Grand Opening
Location:Wheatley Education Complex, 1299 Neal Street, NE

10:15 am: Remarks, Chevy Chase Play Courts Ribbon Cutting
Location: Chevy Chase Playground, 5500 41st Street, NW

5:30 pm: Remarks, Convention Center HQ Hotel Bill Signing
Location: 9th and L Streets NW

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  • Joel Lawson

    Rhee has been doing an outstanding job under crushing circumstances, and the very positive polling numbers reported here echo what I have heard from countless active citizens citywide, esp. newer residents. Yes, Rhee often jumps into the driver's seat of a bulldozer, but with the city's schools in what can only be termed a human rights crisis, softer approaches had only elongated the dim tunnel for our youth. In an informal focus group I conducted last year with young professional residents, I was shocked by the positive yearning to engage in the city's civic culture. One sharp exception: the majority were firm in the belief that having children meant departing the city. If we want to build communities and futures, not just a prosperous city, then Rhee's work is essential and deeply appreciated.

  • Key

    "But does all that hurt his chances for re-election next year?"

    All depends on the competition. if it's any of the michael's or kwame brown, then it's Fenty in a landslide.

  • Key

    Same with Jim Graham, and TOO darn bad! We need some real political competition on the ward level! Why don't we have it in Ward 1??

  • Q™

    Wow Wemple, your lead story for this should be retitled, "The Examiner Is NO Gallup Poll". I've never seen such an atrocious use of polling and statistics in my life. Wards 1, 3, and 6...all benefactors of the building boom and concentrated economic development. The only one missing was Ward 2. ASK the registered democrats in economically depressed areas or those who've been runover by the Fenty machine (Wards 5, 7, 8) and you will skew those numbers downward as well. Ward 4 folks have lost confidence in their native son, so I wouldn't bet on them either. The fact that Jaffe is using this data for his own spin shows complete ineptness.

    P.S., Joel, no offense but the same quack survey done by The (needs a head) EXAMINER, appropriately didn't ask folks and parents from Wards 5, 7, & 8. My guess is that if they did a balanced sampling, the numbers would skew downward.

  • Q™

    I wish MSG could get the DC Armory and modernize it. That'll put a thumb in the eye of many of the venues in North West. Outside of the Atlas Theater, what other venues exist in NE that could seat more than a couple hundred people?

  • Ward 5

    Q - I live in Ward 5 and typically I hate surveys but would have PAID to give someone my opinion of Fenty... It most certainly would not have HELPED his numbers!

  • Q™

    @Ward 5, me too. Even if they charged $20, especially in this economy, I can imagine long lines and the pollsters having to put a portable ATM nearby. LOL!

  • Downtown Rez

    Good write-up, Erik.

  • KCinDC

    They polled in Wards 1, 3, and 6 apparently because that's where the ward-level council races are next year, but why did they skip Ward 5? Harry Thomas Jr is up in 2010 as well.

    Approval and reelection poll numbers for citywide offices are meaningless if the poll is only in three decidedly nonrepresentative wards out of eight.

  • SG

    Um, isn't his favorable rating 68%? That's not low.

  • Truth Hurts

    I'll puke if Vince "one city" Gray runs for mayor. But the white republican out of state business fat cats who bankrolled his council chair campaign will be firing up cigars, singing "Happy Days Are Here Again".

  • Q™

    SG, approval ratings are more subjective than anything else. Really what they represent are week-to-week popularity contest tracking. You know, like in high school...Who's cool, etc. True, 68% is more than a majority approval rating, but then you have to ask a majority approval of what. When President George W. Bush had low 30% approval rating, that still didn't change the fact that he was president. That didn't usher in some sort of impeachment. The only thing it did was created some post-mortem opinion about him. Adding more nails is Cheney's recent comments that Bush went soft.

    If Bush went "hard" as Cheney would suggest, we'd all be wearing gas masks, gasoline would be through the roof, and the casulty rate in Iraq and Afghanistan would be exponentially worse.

    Forget about approval ratings. Simply vote the man out.

  • Joel Lawson

    It is absurd to suggest that approval ratings are irrelevant, and/or without direct political impact. You offer the example of Bush's historic lows, and somehow claim that because he was not impeached, the low numbers were irrelevant. You also argue that the "only thing it did" was craft postmortem opinion of Bush.

    Try telling that to the RNC, or to any now-former GOP members of Congress, or to any of the failed GOP candidates for statehouse seats.

    Anyone who's worked in politics knows that approval ratings, while obviously subject to flux over time, can be very important barometers of voter sentiment.

    This professional poll indicates very high approval ratings for Fenty in three key wards that have been important factors in citywide elections, and for Rhee also (who, arguably, reinforces support for Fenty, given school reform is his signature issue).

    You can dismiss the numbers if you wish, but any seasoned observer would not, regardless of their own opinions of the political figures involved.

  • Q™

    Joel, I can appreciate your comments. Rather than talk about what level of seasoning I have as an observer, let's get to the crux of the matter. While I'd rather wait until the polls are extended to other Wards (per the Examiner article), I recommend everyone look at

    With the margin of error determined at almost 4%, it is difficult to qualify this data, interpretations may vary, but it smacks of a possible Fenty-re-election survey. They asked about Cheh, Graham, Wells, Mendelson, Kwame, Gray, along with Rhee and Nickels, as if to put them as equals. The only person missing is Lanier.

    I say that too because even what was reported by the Examiner, tended to "cherry pick" only the results that would help present their angle for the story. No mention of Gay marriages, Adams Morgan, and other poignant things about this survey. Just how Fenty has a 68% Approval rating, from Wards 1, 3, 6, the majority of which are white, male, and over 40.

    Joel, let's not dismiss the numbers as they point to more inaccurate picture.

    Not only that but while they didn't ask Latinos (note the Black/White extrapolation), be advised that the remaining Wards have a higher African-American concentration and thus would more than likely NOT SUPPORT Fenty, based on what this survey predicts.

  • Joel Lawson

    Fine, Q. You previously were arguing that approval ratings are thoroughly irrelevant, now you're arguing that they're just incomplete, and in fact would become relevant in your mind if the remaining numbers resulted in an overall negative tally.

    While you make up your mind, the published poll indicates that others have too: in three important wards, they approve of the Mayor, and Rhee.

  • Joel Lawson

    P.S. And 4% is by no means an unusual margin of error for a poll of this scope, and it is therefore unclear what you are suggesting is the exact inability to qualify, or did you mean quantify, the data.

  • Q™

    Joel, you clearly misconstrued what I was saying. They are relevant...just not relevant enough to change the minds of those who were not surveyed in the first place. As for the GOP fallout over Bush's numbers, please be informed that is was not the numbers that got them voted out of office. It was consistently following Bush's (I mean Cheney's) mandates and towing the Party line.

    Fenty has a GOOD shot at winning in 2010, not because of approval number predictions, but because MANY of the people who don't like what he is doing WON'T come out to vote. The same can be said of Alexander's first election and others. Disapproving of a candidate is one thing. Voting against them is another. DC, unfortunately is filled with voter apathy...strangly enough in the wards that were NOT surveyed.

  • Joel Lawson

    Your closing line only supports the relevancy and weight of the numbers in the wards surveyed.

  • Q™

    Joel, sorry for my lack of clarity on the 4%. The 4% was referencing the pretty close numbers in Ward 1 regarding whether Fenty performed as expected (48%) or disappointed (44%). Furthermore, the 60% is not an approval rating, moreso if you have a favorable impression.

    I could have a favorable impression of someone, but could be disappointed in his performance. Note the difference. Many a Redskin was cut from the team based on this. As for Fenty, he might be a decent guy (68%), but I don't like his performance (44% +/- 4%), so come 2010, I will vote him out. Nothing personal. I want a mayor who is a decent person and a good performer. If I had to choose, performance would be first.