Rocco Rossi is entering October with a lot of work to do if he wants to become Mayor of Toronto. But there are reasons for Rossi supporters to be excited.
Thomson bows out of the Toronto mayoral race and backs Smitherman.
If Sarah had come over to Rossi, it would have been consistent with her pronouncements over the campaign. Her policies were much more consistent with Rossi's. I don't want to conjecture about her reasons.
I expect that what followers she had will move over to Rossi. She has spent too much time railing against George Smitherman about eHealth and other elements of his past. She has spent even more time blasting Rob Ford as being the absolute destruction of Toronto.
Unless those who would vote for her move to Joey Pants, Rossi will benefit.
Some Pretty Ugly Polls, Or Not?
Given the numbers in the last two polls, it would be surprising if Rocco did not consider closing up the office and going home. But there is more to Rocco than that and there is more in the polls than one number.
In the Nanos poll, we saw that Rocco has grown his name recognition considerably over the campaign, based on his vision and character. When determining a second choice of candidate, Rocco was the recurring second choice. Now let's be straightforward, I am sure that at this point, Rocco would prefer to be the first choice of more than 10% of the voters.
But what the polls show, in my opinion, is that Rocco has a foundation. Seven months ago, he was a virtual unknown to all but a small element of the electorate, the wonks. Now, when his name is mentioned, people know that he is the tall, bald guy who wants to tunnel under Toronto.
Are Voters Taking a Closer Look at the Front Runners?
So why is Rocco not hiding under his bed? Let's have a look.
Rob Ford has run his campaign primarily on charisma. His anger at the waste and overspending at City Hall has resonated with the electorate. His apparent authenticity and honesty has people, who should know better, saying that he will bring City Hall under control and benefit Toronto. However, it is a long campaign. His financial and transit plan have not held water. The numbers he gives are wrong, sometimes by an order of magnitude. I suspect that during this last month of the campaign, as Ford and George pound each other, many Ford supporters will be furtively looking for someone who can control spending at City Hall, build consensus and move forward a vision of a better city.
George Smitherman has been the beneficiary of the initial loss of Ford votes. People are responding to the name they know best, besides Ford. They are looking for someone who is not Ford but has the ability to lead the city. George must be furiously happy. But George spent the campaign bleeding support. The election of the former deputy premier as mayor should have been a coronation. As we move into the final sprint, people will turn away from him not just because of eHealth but because they will see that he does not have the temperment to build the consensus needed to lead this wonderful city.
Joe Pantalone (who will only be called Joey Pants by me moving forward) has the best ties in the campaign. He looks good. But he comes to the campaign with all of the baggage of his decades on council. This assures him a base of voters but not enough to win. In fact, I suspect that much of his union vote realizes that they are in a difficult situation and are looking to actually vote for a candidate who will negotiate fairly, rather than try to negotiate by edict. I suspect that Ford is their worst nightmare and Furious is not much better. Voters are looking for a person who can work with the unions for better efficiency and better costing, or toss their well-paid posteriors to the outsourcing curb.
Rocco Up the Middle for the Win?
If Rocco keeps campaigning with the energy he has shown (he is the energizer bunny of candidates), the voters discussed above will start to turn his way. They will discover that their original first choice comes with some pretty severe downsides. They will discover they have a choice in a funny looking bald guy with a bright, white smile. They will understand that Rocco Rossi is
A consensus builder
Not prone to a furious temper
Not interested in being Mayor for life
If Rocco keeps talking to people, showing great ideas and a responsible character, he may be able to slip up the middle as the candidate Toronto needs for these challenging time.