Ok, everyone relax. Rob Ford did not win last night’s debate. He may not have lost it, but that’s not the same as winning it, and never will be. Even if he had won the debate, he stands exactly a zero chance of winning the election. Zero.
There are a lot of reasons I feel confident saying that. Edward Keenan in this excellent piece on Ford’s campaign, or lack there of, has already covered many of them. Last night changed none of them. I’m a Leafs fan, so I get panic as a natural reaction but in this case there really is no need.
On to why he didn’t win the debate though. I will concede he came across better than a lot of people, including myself, thought he would. That was a pretty low bar though which mostly included arriving on time, appearing sober, and managing not to punch anyone on camera. Check, check, and check. Nice work there Robbie.
The format, using a term as loosely as is possible, also lent itself to making him look good. The moderator like the Mayor himself, was in name only. As a result, a free for all melee ensued which suits Rob just fine. Rob genuinely seems to enjoy chaos so it’s no surprise he seemed comfortable in the middle of it.
While some of his opponents made brave efforts, there was no attempt by the “moderator” to correct Ford on any of the numerous lies he told either. Which is exactly why he didn’t win this debate.
All Ford did last night was tip his hand. He showed what most of us and surely his opponents’ campaigns knew. He is going to repeat the same lies over and over again. Ford didn’t win, because he has shown that all he has to run on are lies. Any voter who thinks he was telling the truth about saving a billion dollars, is unlikely to vote for anyone else. All he can do his bluff, the other campaigns know it for sure now and will adjust. The have 213 days remember.
A lot of reaction online questioned why the other candidates didn’t come after him harder for being a crack smoking liar who consorts with criminals. I’ll confess, I wondered that myself. At the same time, if everyone likely to vote for you knows he is and knows his response will be a lie, what is there to gain?
Warren Kinsella, a strong Olivia Chow supporter and important volunteer on her campaign, summed it up even better. If a man who proudly wears the nickname “Prince of Darkness” gets why no one went after Ford about crack, perhaps the rest of us should.
Ford didn’t win last night. Striking a more conciliatory tone, keeping people guessing, even coming clean entirely all could have amounted to win for him last night. Instead he showed us what cards he’s holding. He let us know he’s going to play a hand he should have folded, and play it to the end. That’s no way to win a card game, and it wasn’t a win last night either.