Ford has surged way ahead of Smitherman, internal Smitherman poll says
A Pollara poll done for the George Smitherman campaign suggests frontrunner Rob Ford has dramatically widened his lead in the race to be Toronto mayor.
The poll of 700 Torontonians conducted Sept. 8 to 12 , and provided to the Star on Sunday, found 46 per cent of decided voters support Ford, 24 per cent Smitherman, 11 per cent for Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, 7 per cent for Rocco Rossi and 2 per cent for other candidates.
However, according to the poll, some 22 per cent of voters were still undecided. The poll's margin of error is 7 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
To put the magnitude of Ford's surge and Smitherman's slide in perspective, a similar poll done for the Smitherman campaign from July 9 to 12 had Smitherman at 32 per cent and Ford at 31 per cent.
In the new poll, when you lump in undecided voters, the split is: Ford 36 per cent, Smitherman 19 per cent, Pantalone 9 per cent, Thomson 8 per cent, Rossi 6 per cent, Other 1 per cent and undecided 22 per cent.
When respondents were asked this time about a hypothetical race in which only Ford, Smitherman and Rossi were running, Ford had a handy but less overwhelming lead, at 50 per cent compared to Smitherman's 35 per cent and Rossi's 15 per cent.
The campaign released its poll ahead of a Globe/CTV/CP24/Nanos Research survey conducted in the past few days that reportedly pegs Ford's support at 51 per cent of decided voters, and shows a similar pull away from second-place Smitherman. That results of that poll will be released Sunday night.
"If the election were held today -- and it isn't -- Rob Ford would be the mayor of Toronto," Smitherman said in an interview Sunday afternoon.
"But I'm in the best position of mounting a coalition based on a different vision of Toronto. This is a bit of an alarm for people over what's happening in their city and to line up behind one vision -- a destructive, reckless one or one that is about city building. There is but one place for to put their hope and it is my candidacy ... We will fight for our city to the end."
Smitherman, the former Ontario deputy premier, made no bones about the fact that he is making a plea for strategic voting -- for voters now supporting Pantalone, Thomson or Rossi to abandon their first choice and start supporting him in an anyone-but-Ford campaign.
He said he is making the pitch to labour, arts, ethnic minority groups and others he says have the most to lose if Ford, the penny-pinching Etobicoke councillor who is promising deep cuts to city spending, becomes mayor on Oct. 25.
However, Smitherman said he doesn't expect any of his rivals to drop out of the race and urge their supporters to instead back him.
The Ford campaign has been asked for its reaction to the Smitherman poll. We'll report the response when and if we get it.