Can Mo Elleithee et al. beat Fenty’s “spectacularly dysfunctional…press shop?”

Can Mo Elleithee et al. beat Fenty’s “spectacularly dysfunctional…press shop?”

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As you may know, long-time Virginia political strategist Mo Elleithee is now a senior advisor to D.C. mayoral candidate Vincent Gray, running against Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary on September 14.  The question is, can Mo et al. defeat what Washington City Paper’s “Loose Lips” calls the “spectacularly dysfunctional” Fenty press operation?

LL wouldn’t normally bore his readers with tales of spokesperson shenanigans. But Fenty is facing the very real possibility that in two months he’ll lose the Democratic primary to D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray. And many of his troubles involve what political operatives call “atmospherics”-the very stuff a PR professional is supposed to manage.

In the Fenty administration, though, the paid PR professionals are AWOL. Instead, the mayor has let his very own Samwise Gamgee, D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, become the de facto spokesman. “I cringe every time he opens his fucking mouth,” said one Fenty pal, who spoke on condition of anonymity for, well, obvious reasons.

Look, I know that Mo – who I named the second most significant Democratic campaign person of the past decade – has been on a bit of a rough streak recently, with losses by his clients Hillary Clinton in 2008, Terry McAuliffe, Creigh Deeds and Jody Wagner in 2009. On the other hand, Mo won some big ones – Mark Warner ’01, Tim Kaine ’05 – a few years back, and is due for a win at this point [UPDATE: apparently, Mo also helped  elect Tom Udall to the Senate in 2008 as well].  Of course, it’s never easy unseating an incumbent, but Adrian Fenty has alienated an awful lot of people with his arrogant, aloof leadership style. And now, he’s running what Loose Lips describes as an utterly incompetent campaign for reelection.  I don’t know about you, but I’m putting my money on a big “W” for Mo in this one!

  • http://thegreenmiles.blogspot.com TheGreenMiles

    Aloof doesn’t equal incompetent. DC – particularly its schools – have done well under Fenty, and it’s alarming that Gray is running almost entirely on a platform of rolling back Michelle Rhee’s school reform. Not very progressive.

  • jwsevert

    Mo since we met when we were both helping Bill Bradley in the snows of New Hampshire during 2000, but I think he’s wrong on this one.

    It used to be that being Mayor of NYC was called the toughest job in America, but the mayorality of DC probably now deserves that dubious distinction.  With respect to public education and public safety — perhaps any mayor’s top two areas of responsibility — Fenty has displayed innovative thinking, managerial competence and positive results.  One can make the argument shorthand simply by naming two names:  Michelle Rhee and Cathy Lanier.