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Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with Swiss President Doris Leuthard in Kehrsatz, Switzerland, on Oct. 22, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with Swiss President Doris Leuthard in Kehrsatz, Switzerland, on Oct. 22, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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What Rob Ford's victory means for Stephen Harper Add to ...

Rob Ford's thunderous victory in Toronto ushers in a new era of politics where the "old bromides no longer apply," EKOS pollster Frank Graves says.

The political landscape is shifting, he says, given that last week conservatives in Calgary elected a visible minority mayor while visible minorities in Toronto elected a conservative mayor Monday night.

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"From the Tea Party movement in the States, to the continued dominance of Harper's Conservatives on the federal stage, Rob Ford's victory is just another vivid illustration of the new rules of electoral success," Mr. Graves told The Globe Tuesday morning. "At some point the progressives may want to park their indifference and contempt and take a few pages out of the increasingly successful populist playbook."

Mr. Graves nailed the Toronto race. His last poll - released Sunday, the day before the vote - showed Mr. Ford with 48 per cent support compared to 33 per cent for former Liberal deputy premier George Smitherman.

Other polling had shown the race was too close to call but Mr. Graves was predicting a big win for Mr. Ford. And he was right - the latest tally in the morning newspapers showed Mr. Ford capturing 47 per cent of the vote compared to 36 per cent for Mr. Smitherman.

Mr. Graves notes that Mr. Ford's surge came late and was missed by some polls. Pollsters sampling through on-line surveys did not pick up on some of Mr. Ford's strongest supporters: the older, lower and moderate socio-economic voters.

"Most of these are not online," Mr. Graves explained. "This particular result harshly exposes the problem of ignoring those who aren't online."

It was Mr. Ford's message - stopping the "gravy train" at City Hall - that proved key to his electoral success.

"Blending emotion and simplified messaging they have the old progressive elite politics in disarray," Mr. Graves said. "Educated centrist-progressives continue to roll their eyes and click their tongues as they see the political agenda wrestled away from them by this angry cohort of less-educated voters."

Mr. Ford's pollster, Dimitri Pantazopoulos, agreed in part with Mr. Graves's analysis. He said Monday night that the Toronto campaign came down to a few factors, including the "simple and effective message" that Torontonians wanted to hear: "restraint and change."

Mr. Pantazopoulos also said the Ford team benefited from a "well run ground campaign" while Mr. Smitherman, a former provincial health minister, was hurt by his record in that portfolio.

The EKOS polling, meanwhile, showed "this new brand of populist conservatism" adopted by Mr. Ford rejects the "old elite authorities."

"This movement is rooted in older, less educated voters and what is particularly notable is that they are increasingly on the winning side," Mr. Graves said.

It's interesting that it was Mr. Graves who picked up on this big Ford win given he's the pollster picked on by the Harper Tories, who believe he has a Liberal bias. "So where is the bias people?" he asks.

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