NBC Washington - Jackie Bensen
DC Mayor Adrian Fenty faces an uphill battle in the two weeks leading up to the primary.
The long-awaited Washington Post poll confirms that D.C. Council Chair Vince gray has pulled ahead in the mayoral race. Gray leads Fenty 49 to 36 percent among all Democratic voters and 53 to 36 percent among likely voters.
With just more than two weeks left in the election -- early voting starts Monday -- Mayor Fenty has convinced voters in the merits but failed to win them over with promises to change his governing style. Though Democrats polled say that they approve Mayor Fenty's accomplishments, many Democrats, and in particular black Democrats, hold "deep-seated" criticisms of the Mayor.
Nearly six in 10 black Democrats see Fenty as caring primarily about upper-income residents; more than four in 10 see him as disproportionately concerned about whites in the District. In predominantly black Wards 7 & 8, east of the Anacostia River, where Fenty carried 54 percent of the primary vote four years ago, just 14 percent of all Democratic voters there now back him against Gray.
Perhaps reading the writing on the wall, Mayor Fenty's campaign tried this week to convince the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to allow voters registered as independent to declare party affiliation and participate in the primary. The board denied the request. A new election law that allows early voting also allows same-day voter registration -- but voters cannot declare a party at the last minute.
The Post, which endorsed Mayor Fenty, published a lengthy editorial in favor of permitting unaffiliated voters to register late in the race.
Ten days ago, the Clarus Research group released a poll showing a small lead for Gray but a statistical tie between the candidates. NBC's Tom Sherwood said that the candidates' ground game would be crucial to determining the outcome of the race. It remains to be seen whether Mayor Fenty's $4 million war chest and strong ground game can make up what appears to be a significant shortfall.