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Olivia Chow Andrew Rusk http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewrusk/5579664715/

Olivia Chow
Andrew Rusk

 

Few would argue against the idea that Rob Ford is a man of appetites.  He has an appetite for fine food, an appetite for fine wine, and an appetite for inappropriate shenanigans involving enough illicit narcotics to kill a baby elephant. Seriously, if anyone epitomizes the phrase “err on the side of excess”, it is Rob Ford.

Scientifically speaking, Rob Ford owes a great portion of his successful climb of the Canadian political ladder to the fact that he can tap into a vast reservoir of stored stamina to overtake his political opponents. In fact, Elections Canada is in the process of studying whether Rob Ford’s body actually defies certain laws of thermodynamics, thereby granting the superman an unfair advantage in the upcoming race. For anyone who may have difficulty understanding what I am talking about, I encourage them to watch Rob Ford’s late-night appearance on Jimmy Kimmel set to the Skrillex remix of “Breakin’ a Sweat” by The Doors (hit play on them both at the same time and prepare to become enlightened).

YouTube Doubler

 

Few would argue that Olivia Chow, who tossed her hat into the mayoral race just a few weeks ago, is a woman that can walk the walk, talk the talk, and match sound bite-for-sound bite at the media buffet table with Rob Ford. After all, Torontonians need a mayor with ambition, with drive, with big appetites in order to command the thriving metropolis.

Yet, in the latest round of debates, Olivia Chow seemed a bit different… A little more gregarious, a little more genuine, and possessing a little more fire in the belly. While characteristically indifferent at most media sorties, Olivia Chow is now challenging Rob Ford at the small-ball game by appealing to hard-pressed suburban Ontarians.  She went as far as to give her first public policy announcement on the subject of rush-hour bus service in the struggling neighborhood of Jane & Wilson. In a way, Olivia Chow is embracing the golden aphorism that Sandra Bullock learned in Miss Congeniality– “fake it to make it.”

The results of the new strategy are paying huge dividends. According to a poll conducted by the Toronto Star shortly after the first debates, Olivia Chow was handily declared to be the winner, garnering nearly 44% of all votes cast.

The statistics should not come as a huge surprise, especially given how, if the Turing Test could be applied to politicians, most people would have immense difficulty distinguishing Olivia Chow from Rob Ford when it comes down to campaign strategy. Indeed, both platforms are highly populist, highly focused on the economy, and highly redundant. Yet redundancy can have its virtues for a candidate by transforming an election into a popularity contest.

By co-opting Rob Ford’s “big man-little man” cult of personality strategy, Olivia Chow now has an exceedingly strong chance at winning this game of thrones. The achievement is not merely imitation, but more of a clever tactic that depends on a contribution of other important factors: the relative obscurity of the other candidates who don’t possess any significant political machinery; Rob Ford’s eroding position as an incumbent on defense; and the dominant king-of-the-hill strategy employed by all candidates.

At the same time, early fears that the electorate would be split on the left by the entrance of recent candidates (including Mizz Barbie Bitch) seem to be abating. This heartening news can only swell the ranks of “Chow Nation” as voters increasingly view this race as being just between the two current poll leaders.

As much as I want to see Tweedle-Dee/Tweedle-Dum’s impostor brother with a bad history of hypertension win consecutive mandates (#FordHorde), until he shows some signs of responsibility and an overture or two of contrition, Rob Ford won’t get that coveted position. He needs to steer the Rob Ford brand back to the center. While it’s easy to love someone despite their flaws, it’s much better to keep those flaws to the private sphere. On the other hand, Olivia Chow can be flawless to a fault (I wonder if she dreams of electric sheep…) but she is already making a strong effort to be every bit as sparky as the current charismatic mayor.

Whoever wins, I just hope that the shenanigans don’t stop there.  P.S. Crack cocaine is not so bad, Olivia.