If forced to choose between George Smitherman and Rob Ford in a two-horse race, Torontonians would choose the former deputy premier, a new poll suggests.
The Global News Ipsos-Reid poll indicates Mr. Ford, previously the runaway frontrunner in Toronto's mayoral race and still first among the top five candidates, may be losing some of his lead even as he prepares to roll out one of the more significant planks of his tough-on-spending platform.
A survey of 400 Toronto voters released Monday evening found Rob Ford leading with 28 per cent, compared with 23 per cent for his closest rival George Smitherman and 10 per cent for third-place candidate Joe Pantalone. Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi were tied, with seven per cent of respondents.
Significantly, this latest Ipsos-Reid poll indicates that if it was just down to the former deputy premier and the grandiloquent Etobicoke councillor, Mr. Smitherman would win - 48 per cent of respondents said they'd vote for him, compared with 45 per cent who said they'd vote for Mr. Ford if the Oct. 25 election were held today.
This poll comes less than two weeks after a previous Nanos poll, done for The Globe and Mail, CTV and CP24, gave Mr. Ford a commanding lead over his rival - more than lapping Mr. Smitherman among all voters and garnering 45 per cent among those who've already made up their minds.
This latest Ipsos-Reid poll also gives Mr. Smitherman the lead downtown - an edge he'd lost in the last poll, which indicated Mr. Ford would win by a comfortable margin even in Toronto's urban core.
The new results suggest pile-on efforts by other candidates in an "anyone but Ford" campaign attempting to staunch Mr. Ford's runaway success may be having their desired effect.
All four other candidates have poised themselves in opposition to Mr. Ford, with Mr. Smitherman making a point of contrasting their platforms.
But the poll also indicates those who like Mr. Ford, like him a lot: While 39 per cent of all those polled said they're sure of their choice, 53 per cent of Mr. Ford's supporters are firm in their voting convictions.
Numerous pundits have noted that, popularity aside, voting day can be a mug's game because of a municipal election's abysmally low voter turnout: Less than 40 per cent of Torontonians bothered to cast a ballot in 2006.
That apathy may give Mr. Smitherman an edge, according to these numbers: He's neck-and-neck with Mr. Ford among respondents who said they're "absolutely certain" they'll vote, with 30 per cent and 29 per cent of that vote, respectively.
The poll, conducted by phone Sept. 24-26, is accurate within 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.