A couple of weeks ago I offered a scenario in which Olivia Chow could still win. At the time, I acknowledged her decline in pre-Labour Day polls, but argued that pre-Labour Day polls are irrelevant.
Given the incumbent Mayor’s rare cancer, the unexpected candidacy of his brother Doug, and the withdrawal of David Soknacki, it’s tempting to argue that all “pre-tumour” predictions are irrelevant too. But they’re not.
Most people ignore the only credible pre-Labour Day polls – the 2011 federal, and 2014 provincial election results. In those “polls,” conservative candidates managed to attract only 35-40% of the popular vote. Rob Ford’s 2010 results were only a few points better.
I made the case that none of the white, male, millionaire, suburban, conservative mayoral candidates could attract a big enough share of that minority to win. My argument was that Torontonians, who in the majority rejected Harper, Hudak, and Ford, were ready for something completely different. Chow stood alone as the non-WASP, middle class, female, urban, lefty. How different can you get?
I felt confident about the effect of conservative vote splitting because Tory will never budge any of those Ford Nation knuckleheads. That’s a reality Tory must contend with in the crowded space to the right of centre.
Imagine if Tory tried to match the Ford challenge in terms of blindly loyal, truth-deaf, zealots. What would Tory Nation look like? How would John Tory, this nabob of nepotism, ever inspire a grass-roots movement? I’m envisioning a militant wing of former trust fund kids, mobilized to restore the Family Compact’s caliphate in Upper Canada – a kind of private club jihad fought in crested blue blazers and tassled loafers.
There is already speculation that Doug Ford is only running to beat John Tory, who, as Ford family legend would have it, accepted their endorsement in 2003 on the understanding that “it would be Rob’s turn next.” Ford may succeed against Tory, but by doing so, he may deliver Chow’s victory.
Seriously, what’s there to choose between Tory and Ford? One was born with a silver spoon in his mouth; the other with a spoon up his nose! The thuggish, orc-like Fordies despise the effetely elvish Toryites. They couldn’t unite against Chow even if they tried.
Despite running against Doug Ford, against sympathy for Rob Ford, against the grieving Ford family, against the spectral presence of the deadly tumour, against John Tory, and against a callow, poll-chasing media, Chow has already slipped back into second place according to the National Post. Eulogies for her campaign are premature.
Because, regardless of what Chow does, Ford and Tory have to fight for their share of the conservative base. Give Ford his 25%, and there isn’t enough left for Tory to win. Even if Toronto decides, in the majority, that we need another three years of leadership from white, male, suburban, conservative, one-percenters, how big a majority can we imagine?
In the absence of grand visions and charismatic candidates, voter predispositions matter a lot. Elections at every level demonstrate that Torontonians are predisposed, in strong majority, to vote against right of centre candidates. Just as the left leaning candidates, Smitherman and Pantalone, had to split Ford’s leftovers in the 2010 election, now it’s Tory trying to split a minority of predisposed conservative voters.
For Tory to beat Chow, it would take a complete reversal of Toronto’s voting habits. If that occurs, and Ford holds onto his 25% base, Tory and Chow split the remaining 75% of voters. To win, one must get more than half, or 38%. My point is that it’s far easier for the lone left leaning candidate to get 38% than it is for Ford and Tory to combine for 63% (38% + 25%) because Torontonians don’t vote that way.
If anything goes right for Chow, or anything goes wrong for Tory (like his brave stand against gay critics of Israel in the Pride Parade, or his claim that women should learn to play golf, or his broken promise to the Ford family…), and Doug Ford proves less loveable than his brother, the polls will quickly change. I don’t think it’s wishful thinking to predict that Chow will find her voice, Tory will put his foot in his mouth, and revelations about Ford will repel all but the most faithful.
So my predictions haven’t changed much.