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In backstretch, Nutter gallops to the lead

Pollster attributes candidate's TV ads, media endorsements for 'meteoric rise' among voters

Tom Knox falls to No. 2
Tom Knox falls to No. 2Read more

THIS WEEK, Philly likes Mike.

The latest Daily News/Keystone poll shows former City Councilman Michael Nutter with a commanding lead over the four other major candidates in the Democratic mayoral primary.

The election is Tuesday.

Nutter led the poll with 31 percent, followed by millionaire Tom Knox with 21 percent, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah with 13 percent, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady with 11 percent and state Rep. Dwight Evans with 3 percent.

Another 21 percent remained undecided in the poll, which questioned 385 registered Democrats from last Wednesday through Monday and had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

Nutter is the third candidate to take the lead in the Keystone Poll. Fattah led in January, and Knox took the lead in April, while Nutter remained static at 12 percent.

"The surge is real," said pollster G. Terry Madonna, of Franklin & Marshall College. Nutter's blitz of TV ads over the past month and his rash of media endorsements fueled his "meteoric rise in the polls," Madonna said.

Nutter, who has focused on fundraising and has run on his good-government record, also was listed as the most popular "second choice" among voters.

But none of this guarantees a win for Nutter. With 21 percent undecided and with 41 percent who favor a candidate saying they could change their minds, there still may be wiggle room for another candidate to move up, Madonna said.

And Election Day turnout will play a big role, he said, noting that Brady and Fattah are known for powerful get-out-the-vote operations and that Knox can easily afford to buy one.

"I don't think you can say with any certainly that this race is over," he said.

Madonna also noted that a low turnout could increase Election Day volatility.

"It doesn't seem like we're talking about the very high turnout," he said, noting the high number of undecided voters and the large number of people who still were wavering on their choice.

The lower the turnout, the greater the chances for an Election Day surprise.

Nutter's TV ads clearly helped fuel his rise, Madonna said. Among those polled who'd seen TV ads in May, 37 percent said they remembered Knox's the most and 31 percent said they remembered Nutter's the most.

The dropoff after those two was huge - only 9 percent remembered Brady ads the most, 5 percent said Evans' ads and 3 percent said Fattah's.

"The numbers clearly illustrate more people have seen his commercials," Madonna said of Nutter. He added that Nutter's message about being a reformer in City Hall obviously had made an impact.

"He's come across as a leader, someone who can move the city forward," Madonna said. "The things he's said have started to resonate in the neighborhoods."

Another ad that appealed to voters featured Nutter's precocious 12-year-old daughter, Olivia, in a lively "Lizzie McGuire"-style spot. According to Nutter's campaign, online fundraising skyrocketed after she went on the air.

Nutter led among both white and African-American voters, according to this poll. He had 37 percent of the white vote and 27 percent of the black vote.

In the black community, Fattah followed Nutter with 22 percent, then Knox with 14 percent, Brady with 8 percent and Evans with 7 percent. A significant number of black voters - 23 percent - remained undecided.

Among white voters, Knox was the second choice with 29 percent, then Brady with 14 percent and Fattah with 4 percent. Sixteen percent of white voters were undecided.

Along gender lines, Nutter had more of the male vote - 36 percent - than female - 29 percent.

With men, 21 percent picked Knox, 12 percent Brady, 11 percent Fattah, 2 percent Evans, and 18 percent were undecided. And among women 22 percent were with Knox, 13 percent Fattah, 10 percent Brady, 4 percent Evans, and 21 percent were undecided.

On issues, 73 percent of voters listed crime and violence as their No. 1 concern, which matches the past two polls.

Asked what they wanted in the next mayor, 23 percent said they wanted someone honest and truthful, and 15 percent said they wanted political knowledge and experience.

Nutter's favorable ratings rose in this new poll, with 52 percent of voters giving him a favorable rating, 11 percent unfavorable, 19 percent still undecided and 17 percent who hadn't heard of him.

Knox, the target of negative ads, saw his favorable rating drop slightly to 38 percent, while his unfavorable rating doubled to 22 percent. Fattah remained steady at 34 percent favorable while his unfavorable rating rose to 27 percent. Evans' favorable rating dropped to 29 percent and his unfavorable rating rose to 22 percent. And Brady's favorable response also dropped, to 22 percent, while his unfavorable rating rose to 32 percent.

Mayor Street's decline in popularity continued, with just 21 percent giving him a favorable rating and 62 percent giving him an unfavorable one. *