Bloomberg Hits Town for Fenty

But will New York mayor's backing make a difference?

By P.J. Orvetti
|  Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010  |  Updated 11:16 AM EDT
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New York Mayor Bloomberg Endorses Fenty for Mayor

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg

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New York Mayor Bloomberg Endorses Fenty for Mayor

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited D.C. to endorse Mayor Adrian Fenty for reelection.
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Today is Bloomsday for D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be in town to offer his support to Fenty. That comes as no surprise -- Fenty emulated Bloomberg’s management style early in his term and seemed happy to be seen as the New York independent’s protégé.

Four years ago, Fenty met with Bloomberg and other big city mayors to pick their brains. Fenty borrowed ideas from New York when he set about to take over the D.C. schools system. It was Bloomberg's schools chancellor Joel Klein, himself a controversial reformer, who suggested Fenty tap Michelle Rhee, the little-known head of the New York-based New Teacher Project, to head the District’s schools.

So Bloomberg’s support was a given. The question is, will it really make any difference? Anyone likely to be influenced by the views of the wealthy liberal technocrat probably already backs Fenty. As Fenty rival Vincent Gray’s chief strategist Mo Elleithee snarkily commented, "We are happy to concede the Manhattan vote to him. We're going to keep focusing on the residents across all of D.C.’s eight wards."

A new citywide poll by Successful Capitol Strategies shows Gray with an eight-point lead over Fenty, 42 to 34 percent -- with one in five voters still undecided. As Elleithee’s remark suggests, Bloomberg’s public backing could actually hurt Fenty, underscoring the impression that Fenty is primarily interested in well-off – and white – Washingtonians.

Last November, when Fenty seemed sure to sail to a second term, the Washington Post’s Colbert King saw storm clouds ahead. King observed that billionaire Bloomberg, whom he called Fenty’s “political godfather,” was nearly upset by an unknown and underfunded challenger. Though Bloomberg outspent his main rival by a margin of 14 to 1, he was reelected by a margin of just 4 percent.

King warned, “If Fenty somehow missed the message from Manhattan, it's this: Money and a slick, professional campaign strategy can take an incumbent, even one as seasoned as Bloomberg, only so far; likability counts, too.”

And it counts much more than out-of-town endorsements.

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