Rob Ford’s Bluffing, Badly

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.




Debate, is served


I had a good vent in my last post about what Toronto’s election could be. Were it not of course for he who shall not, except in search warrants, be named. This election may not be focused on the issues I’d like it to be, but it is underway all the same. Which brings us to our first debate.

Tonight is the first debate to feature all major candidates, and is important for more reasons than that. Tonight’s debate represents, to quote Churchill, “perhaps, the end of the beginning”. The time for speculation on candidates, campaign launches, and other preambles is done. The table is set, time to eat.

With that,  here’s what I think we’ll see from everyone. I’ll get Ford out of the way first. If he shows up relatively on time and relatively sober he will have exceeded the expectations of many. If I was on his campaign I’d consider it a success if in response to a tough question he either answers in a complete sentence, or doesn’t just stomp out.

Many consider Olivia Chow to be the early front runner in this campaign, and I think that she will be treated as such by the other candidates. If they come after her for supporting the LRT she will have both math & Soknacki on her side. Early attacks on her for living in a co-op twenty-something years ago were as predictable as they were false. It will be interesting to see if that comes up tonight, and disappointing if it does.

John Tory will likely continue to sell himself as Ford without the drama. While there is an appeal there to a segment of voters, Ford’s problems as Mayor extend beyond the personal. For example, Tory talked about finding efficiencies this morning in a radio appearance. Ford hired KPMG to do just that. They failed to find any without involving major service cuts.

Karen Stintz faces one of the tougher challenges tonight. Her campaign has had issues in terms of their message and in my opinion hasn’t distinguished herself from her closest competitor, Tory. She should face questions about flipping her support to the subway extension, having led the charge to revive the LRT when Ford’s subway proved to be going nowhere. Her answers may signal if her campaign is going anywhere either.

Last is David Soknacki, full disclosure, I am a volunteer on his campaign. Even if I wasn’t I’d say he has the most to gain tonight for two reasons. First, his biggest challenge remains name recognition compared to the other campaigns. His team have had some fun with this and done well, but TV time can only help him on this front. Also some of his policy ideas are quite in depth, a.k.a wonkish. Being able to explain them in more detail than sound bites allow should be a plus.

As the first debate of what will hopefully be many, political junkies’ appetites are not likely to be satiated by this evening’s appetizer. They will simply have to be satisfied that at last, everyone is seated at the dinner table.