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Tuesday’s Washington Post poll left Muriel Bowser with just half of Vince Gray‘s numbers, a hard knock for a candidate who had previously been considered Gray’s leading challenger. Bowser’s campaign responded today, releasing an internal poll that says Bowser is nearly tied with Gray.

“It’s basically a dead heat with the mayor,” says Bowser campaign manager Bo Shuff.

Bowser’s poll, from firm Garin-Hart-Yang, has Gray at 20 percent and Bowser at 18 percent, with a 4.4 percent margin of error. Jack Evans and Tommy Wells are close behind, both at 15 percent. Vincent Orange has 6 percent of the vote, with 23 percent undecided. Pollsters contacted 502 likely Democratic voters on land lines and cell phones, according to a polling memo released by the campaign.

LL’s taking the poll with a grain of salt for now. Not only is it campaign-commissioned, but Bowser’s memo didn’t include the phrasing of the poll questions. Also missing: an explanation of whether the poll included hopefuls Andy Shallal and Reta Lewis, neither of whom is mentioned in the memo. (Update, Jan. 17: Shallal was the only nonofficeholder included in the poll, although respondents could suggest a candidate.)

In the memo, pollster Frederick Yang declares that Bowser has “considerable upside potential,” arguing that she’ll gain more votes as her name recognition increases.

Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies says Bowser’s campaign is just trying to woo donors after the Post poll, adding that it’s “shocking” that Bowser would tout data showing her with 18 percent of the vote.

“You can’t blame that on us, because we weren’t in the race [until December],” Thies says. “You’ve got to look in the mirror and say, ‘Oh, it’s about me and my campaign, it’s not about the mayor. It’s about me and my campaign, why won’t people pay attention to me? Why can’t I get people to support me?'”

Shuff says Bowser’s lack of name recognition—-her poll shows 61 percent of voters having either no opinion of her or do not know who she is—-bodes well for his candidate.

“It shows us a lot of potential upward growth for us, and not so much for the mayor,” Shuff says.

Update, Jan. 17: Wells campaign manager Chebon Marshall emailed LL some thoughts on the poll.

“I appreciate that the Bowser folks are tying to get all they can out of her poll, but Muriel’s characterization of a dead heat between she and the mayor, but not between she and Tommy,” Marshall writes. “Leaves me with the assumption that Muriel won’t be taking the lead on improving math scores in our schools.”

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Photo by Darrow Montgomery