By Bob Hepburn
Back in 2000, consumer advocate Ralph Nader was the Green party’s nominee for U.S. president, running against Al Gore for the Democrats and George Bush for the Republicans.
Despite pleas from friends to withdraw because his no-hope candidacy could hurt Gore’s chances of beating Bush, Nader campaigned tirelessly.
In the battleground state of Florida, Nader received 97,488 votes — and the undying anger of Democrats who claimed his bid drained votes from Gore, who lost Florida by just 537 votes to Bush.
That narrow and controversial victory in Florida secured the U.S. presidency for Bush.
We all know what happened next — Bush went on to become the worst U.S. president ever.
That same election scenario is taking place right now in Toronto.
Here, a trio of candidates with no chance of winning the Oct. 25 mayoral race may contribute heavily to the election of Rob Ford, whom the candidates themselves claim would be “scary” and a disaster for Toronto if he wins.
Because of that, Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson should withdraw immediately and let Ford and George Smitherman, the two clear front-runners, fight it out by themselves in the last month of the election.
If they refuse to end their ego-fuelled campaigns, which is most probable, then these also-ran candidates would be partly to blame for helping Ford become mayor if he beats Smitherman.
None of these three candidates has really connected with voters.
After nine months of non-stop campaigning, all three are still hovering between 7 and 13 per cent voter support.
At this stage, Smitherman has about 25 per cent backing in the polls and is the only serious challenger for Ford. If the opposition to Ford is to coalesce around a lone candidate, that person will most likely be Smitherman.
That’s critical because Ford’s popularity, which now stands at more than 42 per cent, may have peaked.
A major new poll to be released in the next few days is expected to show he has fallen slightly, with more than one-third of voters still undecided.
For the most part, Pantalone, Rossi and Thomson have all run serious campaigns of which they can be proud. They have outlined their positions in more than 50 public debates and countless speeches and press interviews.
But they’re delusional if they believe they can win.
All of them cling to the false hope that what happened to David Miller in 2003 will happen to them. In that election, Miller and John Tory trailed Barbara Hall badly in the polls on Labour Day. On voting day, though, Miller won with 299,385 votes to 263,189 for Tory. Hall finished a distant third.
Two other also-rans, John Nunziata and Tom Jakobek, embarrassed themselves by getting less than 6 per cent of the votes.
All three of this year’s “major” also-rans will also wind up embarrassing themselves.
In Thomson’s case, can anyone figure out why she thinks she has a chance of winning? She gets media play because, honestly, she’s the only woman in the race, not because she’s qualified. Her only political experience was an unsuccessful bid for a city council seat — in Hamilton at that.
Rossi, too, has failed to win over voters, but says he’s no “quitter.”
For months, he conducted a decent campaign, but in recent days has started to implode, with foolish plans to bury highways under the city and an appallingly bad series of ads that feature tough-talking Tony Soprano-like voices extolling his virtues.
None of it has worked. Even the centre-right voters Rossi had targeted are ignoring him.
Pantalone, whose campaign theme should be “If you liked David Miller, you’ll like me,” is praying NDP voters and union workers will suddenly love him on election day.
The reverse is more likely, with such voters, in their eagerness to stop Ford, telling Pantalone they support him, but then secretly casting ballots for Smitherman.
It’s too late to remove their names from the ballots.
But it’s not too late for Pantalone, Rossi and Thomson to announce they are no longer candidates and stop all campaigning.
By doing so, they will save their financial backers from wasting money on expensive campaign ads that are about to hit Toronto newspapers and airwaves. They will also save themselves from huge debts that could take years to pay off.
They might even save themselves from being branded forever as Toronto’s own version of Ralph Nader.
Bob Hepburn's column appears Thursday. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The Star's Hepburn: "Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson should withdraw immediately "
He's right. ONLY SMITHERMAN CAN STOP ROB FORD....and he needs to be stopped.