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At 7 this morning, just hours before Toronto picks a new mayor in the most electrifying race in decades, John Tory volunteers will be at subway stops across the city in one last push to win votes for their candidate.

Just as early, supporters of front-runner David Miller -- ahead of Mr. Tory by a nose in the polls -- will be on the phones to remind voters that today is election day.

Although the election now looks like a close, two-man dash to the wire, former front-runner Barbara Hall last night egged on cheering volunteers to do their bit to deliver her supporters to the polling booth today.

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After a gruelling, sometimes bizarre, mayoral campaign of almost 11 months, the top three candidates agree on one thing: the one with the best ground organization and army of volunteers today will taste victory tonight.

In Parkdale yesterday afternoon, his voice hoarse from late-night campaigning over the weekend, Mr. Tory said that getting out the vote is "paramount," given that the race is so tight.

"It often determines the winners and losers," he said, dipping in and out of stores on Queen Street West to shake hands with prospective voters yesterday afternoon. It was only one stop on a whirlwind bus tour Mr. Tory made to meet some of the city's 1.6 million eligible voters.

Mr. Miller, who returned yesterday to his political home base in the city's west end, stopped at a satellite campaign office on Bloor Street West to thank supporters.

"I can't overemphasize how much your work matters," he told a small cluster of supporters.

Even former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae dropped in yesterday with a donation and a letter for Mr. Miller.

Both Mr. Tory and Mr. Miller have about 2,000 volunteers at their disposal today, while Ms. Hall has about 1,300, according to officials.

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On one level, the job today is simple enough: Make sure that known supporters actually get out and vote. For that to happen, however, volunteers must keep watch at each of the city's 1,618 polling stations to check that their candidate's likely voters turn up to cast a ballot.

"At 5 p.m. our last-minute push begins," said Paul Oliver, campaign manager for Ms. Hall.

"We will know the people who haven't voted."

Ms. Hall's last hope for a decent showing now depends on a strong turnout from the city's diverse ethnic and cultural communities, whose members may live in high rises and be without cars. To that end, Ms. Hall's volunteers will be busy escorting voters to the polls in minivans.

The big organizational contest, however, will be between Mr. Miller and Mr. Tory, both of whom claimed new converts over the weekend.

City Councillor Kyle Rae, one of Ms. Hall's most loyal supporters to date, made a surprise defection to Mr. Miller's camp. But Mr. Tory picked up an endorsement from federal MP Dennis Mills, an early backer of John Nunziata, who has faded badly in recent weeks.

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When asked to explain his decision, Mr. Rae cited a poll released on Saturday by The Toronto Star that shows Ms. Hall sagging to only 11 per cent of decided voters compared to 44 per cent for Mr. Miller and 37 per cent for Mr. Tory.

"I've been loyal from the beginning," Mr. Rae said yesterday. "I've raised an awful lot of money for her, but it's just out of reach."

Last night, Ms. Hall would not criticize him. "Everybody makes up their own decision," she said, adding that she had just received a phone call of support from the Armenian community pledging help today.

Paul Burns, director of organization for Mr. Miller, said volunteers will be busy in all 44 wards, using phones and e-mails to shore up voters. Like the other camps, they've been canvassing voters across the city for months, trying to nail down dedicated supporters before election day. Nothing is taken for granted, not even the weather, Mr. Burns said.

Mr. Burns said their camp doesn't feel vulnerable in the so-called suburbs, home to two-thirds of eligible voters.

"While David's a downtown guy, he's also a neighbourhood guy," Mr. Burns said.

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"And this city is made up of neighbourhoods." Mr. Miller has also received on-the-ground support from 12 city councillors seeking re-election.

However, Mr. Tory's campaign might have a slight organizational advantage in voter-rich suburban areas where homeowners tend to be more likely to vote than tenants.

Christine Hampson, a senior Liberal strategist who wrote the book for Liberal campaign managers in the recent provincial election, is in charge of Mr. Tory's E-day campaign. Unlike a partisan political campaign with local riding candidates, a municipal race depends on volunteers from all political stripes, she said.

"It presents an interesting challenge," she said.

The exercise has been "a joy for me," she added, because a cross-section of volunteers have been drawn to Mr. Tory's campaign.

"We are peaking at exactly the right time," she said, with volunteers showing up to handle the phone banks, offer lifts or do the bidding of ward and poll captains assigned months ago.

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With Bloor Street a key dividing line -- Mr. Miller strong south of Bloor and Mr. Tory strong to the north -- Scarborough has turned into the crucial battleground for votes today.

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