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Who had the Worst Week in Washington? Adrian Fenty.

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By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, September 19, 2010

No politician -- we repeat, no politician -- should ever lose an election when a majority of voters look favorably on what he or she has done in office. Yet on Tuesday, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty accomplished that feat.

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Four years ago, Fenty won the Democratic primary by nearly 30 points. Now, his political fortunes are in reverse, after he lost his reelection bid against D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray in last week's primary -- a loss that even Fenty's staunchest allies acknowledged was preventable.

According to a terrific report by my Post colleagues Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman, Fenty's advisers met with the wunderkind mayor way back in June to lay out his political problem in simple terms: People didn't like him.

Fenty's reaction? He proclaimed himself "proud" of his record and stormed out of the room. Wrong move. The seeds of his loss were sown in that fundamental miscalculation -- that people vote on the policies, not the person.

A Washington Post poll a few weeks before the primary vote highlighted Fenty's error. Nearly six in 10 registered voters said the city was moving in the right direction, and nearly two-thirds said Fenty had accomplished a "great deal" or a "good amount" in his four years in office. But that same poll showed him losing to Gray by 13 points!

Fenty lost because, while people liked his policies, they disliked his persona more. In 2006, his disapproval rating among black voters in the District was 17 percent; in 2010, 56 percent of that critical voting bloc felt negatively about the mayor.

What Fenty forgot -- or ignored -- is that politics is about relationships. Because people felt that he didn't care about them, his policy successes simply didn't matter in the voting booth.

Adrian Fenty, for forgetting a basic rule of Politics 101, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington?

E-mail chris.cillizza@wpost.comwith your nominees.

Can't remember who had the worst week last week?


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