When Sarah Thomson saw the latest poll numbers, she knew it was time to end her improbable run for mayor and support George Smitherman.
The Women's Post publisher's decision didn't come out of the blue: Stagnant in the polls and facing a debt of about $75,000, she had already begun talking with her rivals about dropping out to halt front-runner Rob Ford.
So when an Ipsos-Reid poll released Monday night revealed the gap between Mr. Ford and Mr. Smitherman had shrunk to five percentage points with the rest of the field trailing badly, Ms. Thomson decided it was time to quit the race.
George Tory, her campaign manager, called Bruce Davis, Mr. Smitherman's campaign manager, around 9 p.m. Monday to tell him his candidate had won Ms. Thomson's backing.
"We saw that poll, combined with all the other polls and we had run out of money a couple of months ago," she said in an interview with The Globe and Mail Tuesday.
"It was at the point where everyone else was coming on strong with advertising and we realized we had to do what is right for Toronto."
In a crossing rife with symbolism, Ms. Thomson walked around the corner from her office at 3 Church Street to Mr. Smitherman's campaign headquarters on The Esplanade Tuesday, where she was greeted by cheering supporters and a throng of cameras.
Mr. Smitherman said he was thrilled "to gain the support of a woman who has brought so much energy and a positive spirit and awesome ideas to the race for mayor of the city of Toronto."
Although Ms. Thomson made her final choice Monday night, she said the turning point came a week earlier when a Nanos Research poll found Mr. Ford enjoyed a commanding 24-point over Mr. Smitherman.
"That's the moment when I realized, look I've got to show Toronto what Rob Ford is like," she said. "I had been sticking on message just talking about myself but I really realized I had to make sure people understood what he was all about."
Mr. Ford, meanwhile, dismissed the development in part because Ms. Thomson failed to pull out before the Sept. 10 deadline.
"Her name's still on the ballot," he said after a speech to the Empire Club Tuesday. "I'm not going to worry about her campaign or anyone else's. I just know Rob Ford's campaign is doing very well."
Ms. Thomson had been chatting informally with the other camps.
According to a report in a local newspaper, Mr. Rossi's team leaked the fact that she was pondering quitting and throwing her support to the former president of the federal Liberal party.
Ms. Thomson said Tuesday the leak wasn't the only reason she didn't pick Mr. Rossi.
"I like Rocco but it was a whole combination of things," she said. "I mean, he's not polling well either. What are the odds [he'd win] Also, our platforms aren't as similar."
Their platforms may differ, but Mr. Rossi said their personas are so alike he's confident he'll gain from her departure.
"My internal polling suggests very strongly the bulk of her support will come to me," he said, emphasizing that he and Ms. Thomson are both business types who've never held elected office.
"I feel very confident I'm not going to get all of it but I'm going to get a significant chunk. And that's going to be the start of additional momentum for my campaign."
Ms. Thomson added that Joe Pantalone wasn't keen on a Thomson endorsement.
"He didn't seem like he was interested in talking to me," she said. "We saw him at the radio station [last week]and he's so focused on [the idea that] he's going to win, I don't think he can see beyond that."
Ms. Thomson was a political neophyte when she launched her long-shot bid for mayor. Publisher of a thin niche magazine for businesswomen, her political experience was limited to a losing bid for Hamilton city council in 1997.
Prior to starting her magazine, she ran a chain of gas stations in Southwestern Ontario.
A plucky competitor, Ms. Thomson went from fringe candidate to legitimate contender with a bold proposal to install road tolls to pay for an expanded subway system.
Along the way, she picked up some high-profile supporters, including two of John Tory's sons and former media baron Conrad Black.
But she didn't pick up much cash. She only raised about $75,000 over the course of the campaign and spent approximately $150,000, meaning she's now saddled with a large campaign debt.
But all that hasn't turned the married mother of two off elected life. She's itching for a future in politics, though she's not sure when or for whom she'll run next. "I've got the bug," she said.
In the meantime, she'll devote the next four weeks to helping Mr. Smitherman win the mayor's chain. Asked what she how she plans to aid her old rival's campaign, she proved her sense of humour has survived the gruelling campaign in tact.
"Well, I'm not going to strip for him," she said, laughing.
With a report from Anna Mehler Paperny