D.C. mayoral race poll shows Fenty and Gray in near dead heat

Correction:

At the very beginning of the process of explaining what it all means, we incorrectly stated that today was Tuesday. Today is Wednesday. We regret the error.

Stay with TBD for WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? COVERAGE!

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Long story short

New Clarus poll shows Fenty and Gray in a near dead heat

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UPDATE 4 p.m.: OK, D.C. Time to wrap up this "what does it all mean" thing. What does anything mean anyway?

UPDATE 3:11 P.M.: Dr. Ron Faucheux, president of the Clarus Research Group, said some more interesting stuff during his conversation with TBD, but we didn't want to cram it all in that one post about The Most Striking Thing. So here are some other points of note from Faucheux.

"The incumbent has a tough battle here but it's not a battle that's lost. They're both still very much in the game," Faucheux says. "I thought what should be encouraging for Gray is that among the most likely voters, he does better than he does with the electorate as a whole. Which is a good sign for him, because it gives him some cushion."

Faucheux also highlighted the job approval rating of D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, which polled at 50 percent.

"And of course, (Metropolitan Police Department Chief) Cathy Lanier's job rating is extremely high so I think that's good for Fenty as well," he noted. "On the other side of the coin, the city council rates extremely well, and that's good for Gray."

BTW: Lanier had an 80 percent job approval rating in the poll, and 62 percent of those surveyed said they approved of the job that the D.C. Council was doing.

UPDATE 3 P.M.: TBD took a salad break, then got on the horn with Dr. Ron Faucheux, president of the Clarus Research Group. Faucheux said the most striking figure in today's poll was the (more than expected ) racial divide between voters.

In poll numbers that show how a head-to-head match-up between Gray and Fenty would shake out, 66 percent of white voters said they supported Fenty, while 20 percent of white voters said they supported Gray. Sixty-three percent of black voters said they would support Gray, while 17 percent said they were most likely to vote for Fenty.

"They are a mirror opposite on that, which is why voter turnout is so important," Faucheux says. "If there's a relatively heavy white turnout, then Fenty can win. If there's a relatively heavy black turnout, then Gray will win. And that's going to be fought on the ground, it's going to be fought house to house. There's a lot both campaigns have to do now to secure that base."

UPDATE 1:34 P.M.: Good news, guys. After a few cell-phone-on-silent failures on our part, TBD has finally touched base with Fenty campaign spokesman Sean Madigan. Madigan says the Fenty camp feels "very good" about where they are.

"We found this morning's numbers encouraging," Madigan says. "Our campaign, we haven't done our own polling. We've got an extremely aggressive door-to-door outreach effort underway. ... What we're hearing, and what we have been hearing for the last several weeks, has sort of been a steady uptick in support."

UPDATE 1:15 P.M.: Hey, does everyone know what "ballyhoo" means? It's OK if you don't. We learn something new everyday. Today I learned about block quotes. In case you were wondering, "ballyhooed" basically means sensational marketing.

Are the Gray folks using this word correctly here? Maybe not. Fenty does have a significant fundraising advantage. So I don't know if I'd say Fenty's "much ballyhooed fundraising advantage" as much as I'd say Fenty's "accurately reported fundraising advantage."

UPDATE 1 P.M.: TBD has received an e-mail from the Vince Gray campaign, which is clearly pandering to the TBD vote by restating our question in the answer and actually using the word "ballyhooed" in a sentence.

Excerpt below:

"So what does this all mean? Simply put, the fundamental dynamics of this race have not changed since Vince Gray declared his candidacy in the spring. Despite his much ballyhooed fundraising advantage, and after spending millions of dollars on his campaign, Adrian Fenty has not been able to significantly alter his numbers."

UPDATE HIGH NOON PLUS 30 MINUTES: The Fenty camp might be the unofficial winner in the race for campaign comments. TBD has missed a call from Sean Madigan, a spokesman for the Fenty campaign. Sean Madigan, call us back again!

UPDATE HIGH NOON PLUS TEN MINUTES: The first question in this forum is about the poll! Fenty and Gray are asked about racial subtext in the poll numbers, which indicate that Fenty is more popular among white voters and Gray is more popular among black voters.

Gray calls the apparent racial divide "regrettable." Fenty responds by saying that he needs to do a better job communicating his record and says the projects that his administration has undertaken are not just for affluent white voters.

UPDATE HIGH NOON: Today's mayoral forum with Adrian Fenty and Vince Gray is starting RIGHT NOW on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. OK ... right now it's an update on traffic conditions and the news, but it's coming soon, I promise.

UPDATE 11:56 A.M.: DCist, the former home of this TBD reporter's deskmate, has posted an update about the poll. We would write more on this but it's like T-minus five minutes until today's radio debate so we have take a brief intermission.

UPDATE 11:33 A.M.: Your wish has been granted, David Meadows! Upon further review, there are some ward-by-ward breakdowns in this poll. Looks like you're off the hook, Post. The District's wards are grouped together, not presented individually, but it's still something.

The data is below:

The question: If there were just two candidates in the primary for mayor — Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray — which one would you most likely vote for?

Wards 2 and 3: 26 percent for Vince Gray, 63 percent for Adrian Fenty, 11 percent undecided/don't know.

Wards 1, 4, and 5: 41 percent for Vince Gray, 41 percent for Adrian Fenty, 18 percent undecided/don't know.

Wards 6, 7, and 8: 59 percent for Vince Gray, 21 percent for Adrian Fenty, 20 percent undecided/don't know.

hat tip to @dcist_martin, @amorrissey at DCist, whose post alerted us to these figures.

UPDATE 11:22 A.M.: For all the dorks in today's audience, TBD has attempted to upload the poll results so you can check out the numbers yourselves. This particular TBD reporter is not so good at the Internet yet (irony!) so let's all hope this works.

Clarus Poll 81810

UPDATE 10:57 A.M.: A brief programming note: Fenty and Gray will be debating today on the Kojo Nnamdi Show in about an hour. Tom Sherwood, local celebrity journalist and non-endorser, will also be in the studio.

UPDATE 10:44 A.M.: Tweeted from @DaveStroup, one of our friends at We Love DC: I believe the big takeaway from today's Clarus poll results is that Vincent Gray and Adrian Fenty are running for mayor.

OK then!

Stroup has posted a longer take on the polling data. Read up!

UPDATE 10:23 A.M.: TBD just got off the phone with Dr. Chris Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University. Arterton noted that today's poll results are really similar to the poll Clarus conducted in November, a fact that we kind of overlooked when we were frantically typing out today's story. Seriously, D.C. Make up your minds.

From the Post's story in November:

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) would topple Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) in a potentially tight 2010 election, according to a new poll by the nonpartisan Clarus Research Group, based in the District.

In a head-to-head contest, 41 percent of those surveyed in live telephone interviews said they would vote for Gray while 37 percent would vote for Fenty. An additional 22 percent were undecided. Gray has said that he is considering challenging the first-term mayor.

"I guess would say to both sides, it's an indication that they need to redouble their efforts and put together a very strong turnout apparatus on election day," Arterton says. "Because it looks to me like that's going to make the difference on who actually votes."

UPDATE 10:14 A.M.: It should probably be noted that TBD has contacted both campaigns for their official comment, but hasn't yet gotten it from either camp. Surprise, surprise.

UPDATE 10:07 A.M.:  Just spoke with David Meadows, of the D.C. Democratic Party, who wishes he would see a poll that was broken down by wards. So do we, David Meadows! Get on that Clarus. Or you, Post.

Says Meadows: "Don't forget that Scott Brown was a nobody and now he's our United States senator. People said he could never do it and the people came out and spoke. And within three days he went from trailing to leading by 20 points. So it's going to be a neck-and-neck, down to the wire election."

UPDATE 9:46 A.M.: Tweeted from @grayformayor: We're delighted by the new poll results! With less money and less time, the blue team has done an AMAZING job!

UPDATE 9:35 A.M.: Note that the first person we called for comment on this breaking news was one Ron Moten, who is probably a Fenty campaign strategist:

"I feel that Adrian's in a good position. just have to work harder and smarter. that's it," he says. "I think he's right where he needs to be to win. I think he's in a position to win. Five points, to me, that's nothing to worry about."

UPDATE 9:19 A.M: And enter the Washington City Paper with some takeaways:

"The takeaway from Clarus’ point of view: 'Voter turnout could well determine the winner of the mayoral primary. A high white turnout is clearly Fenty’s best path to victory. Conversely, a high African American turnout is Gray’s best path to winning the primary.' Duh."

UPDATE 9:09 A.M.: For all the mumbo jumbo about job favorability and name recognition, again, we refer you to the Post.

ORIGINAL

D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray has a narrow lead over incumbent D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty in the 2010 primary, according to a new poll from the Clarus Research Group, a fact first reported by Mike DeBonis at The Washington Post.

The poll found that Gray has a three-point lead among all registered voters who were surveyed. He has five-point lead among those who were most likely to vote in the September election, according to the documents. The poll has a 4.4 percent margin of error.

The poll, released Wednesday morning, involved live telephone interviews with 501 registered Democratic voters from Aug. 15 to 16, a mere several days ago.

Of all the surveyed voters, 39 percent said they would most likely vote for Gray, while 36 percent said they would most likely vote for Fenty, and 22 percent are undecided.

Among those likely to vote in the upcoming September primary, 41 percent said they would vote for Gray, while 36 percent said they planned to vote for Fenty, and 21 percent are undecided.

The last Clarus poll of the D.C. mayoral race, conducted in November and involving 501 registered voters, found that Gray would defeat Fenty in a head-to-head contest. In that poll, 22 percent of the surveyed voters were undecided, 37 percent said they planned to vote for Fenty and 41 percent said they would vote for Gray.

Clarus Research Group is a D.C.-based nonpartisan polling firm.

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