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In what they called an “easy choice,” the Washington Post editorial board is “enthusiastically” endorsing Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s re-election campaign over D.C. Chairman Vincent Gray.

This endorsement, of course, isn’t much of a surprise.  The knock on the editorial board around the Wilson Building is that they are so far in the tank for DCPS Chancellor Michelle  Rhee that they would endorse Charlie Manson to keep her around.

Indeed, Gray’s refusal to say what he’d do as mayor with Rhee strongly irks the Post. While Fenty, in their view, has balls of steel for supporting her:

The courage he showed in fighting for mayoral control of the public schools—and then standing behind Ms. Rhee unflinchingly—cannot be overstated. Imagine any other incumbent allowing his schools chief to fire hundreds of underperforming employees just weeks away from an election that will decide his political future.

Most important, that dedication has delivered results: Schools are improving. Test scores are up, student enrollment has stabilized, an innovative teachers contract is being implemented and school buildings have never been in better shape. For thousands of children whose futures depend on the District’s schools, it would be tragic to slow down now

The endorsement goes on in much the same gushing way. There is an obligatory spanking, in which the Post says Hizzonner raised “unsettling questions about his judgment” with those “suspect” contracts with his friends, his secret travels, and his unwillingness to listen to anyone whose initials aren’t P.N. (though you won’t actually find the words “Peter Nickles” anywhere in the editorial). But all in all, it’s a slam dunk for Fenty. If one were to guess how the race was going based solely on this editorial, one might guess that Fenty is running away with it.

Then there’s the question of timing. The election is still eons away (okay, a month and a half, but it feels like eons). Whatever boost this gives Fenty, the question is whether it’ll last for six weeks. Of course, the Post could always pull an Examiner, which endorsed John McCain twice in 2008—and probably will. It’s easy to imagine this as the first in a series of editorials looking at different issues (like school reform, and how to reform the schools, and just how perfect Rhee is for the task of leading school reform).

How much of a boost this gives Fenty is an open question. LL thinks it’s fair to assume that most people whose views might be swayed by the Post editorial board were probably Fenty voters already. And the Post‘s power in electing pols is a mixed bag (anybody remember how the Post dragged Creigh Deeds into the Virginia primary, only to see him get shellacked by Bob McDonnell?).

Gray strategist Mo Elleithee says Team Gray isn’t surprised by the editorial, but is glad they at least mentioned some of the mayor’s shortcomings.

As for the writing, LL enjoys his editorials on the dry side—haughty, aloof, deliberative, and detached in an Economist kind of way that makes you feel that the editorial writer is clearly your intellectual superior. This editorial doesn’t fit that mold. Instead of the “Voice of God” moniker past Post editorials have earned, this one comes across as the “Voice of the True Believer.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery