The Mayoral Electograph—appearing occasionally on Torontoist—combines poll data, statistical analysis, whimsy, and personal bias to assess the fortunes of key mayoral candidates in a colourful, easy-to-read chart–style thing.
Less than three weeks to go until the big day, and things are moving faster than a bucket of extra-crispy at a Rob Ford barbeque. Campaign signs and canvassers litter the streets like fall leaves, their colourful drama all the more poignant as we know what they do not: that soon they’ll be raked into piles and hauled off to the landfill. Rob Ford retains the lead, but George Smitherman is looming in his rear-view mirror, due in part to Sarah Thomson’s falling on her sword and pushing her followers his way. Rossi and Pantalone struggle along gamely, vowing no surrender, while a full quarter of Torontonians just don’t give a damn about any of it.
But be that as it may. Where do we stand now?
Rob FordElectograph Score: 7/10 (-2)
Recent polls put Rob Ford back in a horse race with George Smitherman, a far cry from a few weeks ago when his lead looked insurmountable. Part of the reason for the stall may be that Ford’s non-stop whining about gravy trains and financial ruin, along with a lack of tangible solutions, has finally started to irritate the electorate.
Presumably anxious to demonstrate something like a policy, the sea-green incomprehensible turned up on YouTube, using a strange, rhythmic pod-person delivery to present his financial plan for the city. The dubious practicality of the plan (councillors will vote to eliminate their own jobs? Really?) has been widely questioned, but to true believers, the fat-cutting message still resonated. Also threatening Ford’s lead is the “Anybody But Ford” factor, with some voters so horrified by the idea of the pugnacious politico inheriting the Miller mantle that they’re ready to vote for just about anyone who can give him a run for his money. That said, Ford is still in the lead by most counts, and we’re getting down to the wire.
Joe PantaloneElectograph Score: 3.5/10 (unchanged)
Polls now predict that Joe Pantalone will come in a distant third rather than a close fourth—but for now, we’re keeping his score where it is.
Electograph is torn on the “Small Wonder” ads, because while they’re cute (though not as cute as if he’d painted himself blue over the slogan “Smurf City!”), we’re not convinced that LOLcat appeal is the key to the mayoralty.
We’re torn, too, on the effect of Pantalone finally securing the David Miller endorsement. It’s a two-edged sword: on the one hand, Miller is kind of a taller, more popular Pantalone—though we doubt that the outgoing mayor would really win the election if he were running this year, no matter what bored prevaricating voters tell telephone pollsters—so his support might drag back a few hard-core Millerites who had thrown up their hands in despair. On the other hand, everyone already knew that Joe was Miller Lite, and having the mayor support him late and unenthusiastically doesn’t feel like a game-changer. What Pantalone hopes is that the right-wing vote will be split three ways, and he’ll tarantella in from stage left and Transit City everyone to Nirvana. The more likely scenario is that the “Anybody But Ford” vote will split four ways, and City Hall will become the summer palace of an Etobicoke-based regime.
Rocco RossiElectograph Score: 2/10 (-0.5)
We can’t in all fairness give Rossi an Electo-promotion this time around. He’s suffered from low brand recognition from the get-go, and the public was more amazed than amused by his recent Mafia-themed radio and print ads. That said, his recent on-air efforts sell his virtues in a more dignified and low-key way, he’s turned in some solid debate performances, and his financial plan eschews pie-in-the-sky promises, suggesting cuts to sacred cows like the police budget while avoiding promising impractical tax decreases à la Ford and Smitherman. Still, there’s no evidence as yet that he’s setting the electorate’s hearts on fire in a way that’s going to propel him from fourth to first in three and a half weeks. There were reports—later denied—that key members of his team were prepared to jump ship to HMCS Ford, but Rossi himself says he’ll stay in the race until the last vote is counted. Which makes him a stand-up guy, but won’t make him mayor.
George SmithermanElectograph Score: 6/10 (+1)
Now firmly back in Electographic second place, George Smitherman is the Anybody But Ford candidate of choice, with Sarah Thomson quitting to help him win and even donating the little Torys, George and John Jr., who had been working for her campaign. This week, progressive councillor and should-be Pantalone supporter Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) opined publicly that Smitherman was the only hope for a Ford-free future. Other panicked progressives may follow—today, in fact, John Sewell did.
Nevertheless, while Smitherman is not Rob Ford, and likely to continue to not be Rob Ford in the future, ultimately his shot at the sash will depend on who he is, not who he isn’t. What Smitherman does bring to the table is political savvy, connections at Queen’s Park (the source of all that is bounteous for the cash-strapped city), and a generally realistic and pragmatic approach towards the challenges and opportunities facing Toronto. To win, Smitherman will need to stake out his brand and his platform clearly in the public mind, something he hasn’t done well so far. He’ll also have to position himself as the rational alternative to Ford without terrifying the left.
Candidates’ illustrations by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist. Electograph design by Marc Lostracco/Torontoist.
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