A winning strategy for Mayor Dangerfield

A recent Post poll offered both good and bad news for Adrian Fenty.
A recent Post poll offered both good and bad news for Adrian Fenty. (Michael Temchine For The Washington Post)
By Glen Bolger
Sunday, February 7, 2010

When Adrian Fenty looks in the mirror, he must see Rodney Dangerfield staring back at him. "I don't get no respect," Fenty likely mumbles to himself as he straightens his tie and ponders his poor personal poll numbers when voters in the District say the city is doing well.

With 52 percent of those polled by The Post saying the city is going in the right direction, Fenty's approval rating ought to be in the mid-60s. Instead, it is a poor 42 percent approve/49 percent disapprove. He's only getting approximately one-third of the vote in a hypothetical mayoral primary. Fenty has clearly alienated a large number of D.C. residents.

It's a rare political paradox. Usually, if voters are happy with the direction of the city/state/country, the mayor/governor/president gets credit. Fenty had to work hard to create this kind of disconnect between himself and the fortunes of the city he is supposed to be running.

As a Republican political consultant, I'm usually not in the habit of offering advice to Democrats (other than the usual tongue-in-cheek requests: Raise taxes, close Gitmo and totally screw up health care). However, given the overwhelmingly Democratic nature of the city, and its importance to the region in which I live, I'll make an exception.

First, stop taking mysterious foreign trips and get out and about in the District. Connect with people in their neighborhoods, their churches, their shops. Don't be aloof and arrogant. Listen and be seen listening.

Second, call a truce to your childish war on the D.C. Council. The city has enough problems that you don't need to be bickering over baseball tickets, much less policy.

Third, pick one area of D.C. government and focus on making it much more responsive to the people. From the poll, it appears voters think the city government is doing pretty well in spite of your leadership. Make a big show of providing some, then humbly take credit for your successes.

If these suggestions work, feel free to thank me by sending me a pass to park anywhere, anytime in your fair city. Think of all the paperwork it would save your parking ticket writers.

The writer is a partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies.

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