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Did Rob Ford just win the first debate of the 2014 Toronto mayoral election?

Pundits this morning are rubbing their eyes and looking at clips that show the mayor keeping it short, simple, loud and to the point in an at-times roiling screamfest of a debate.

Here are four reasons Mr. Ford had a good night:

REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Is that true?

Many of the Mayor's opponents seemed unable to muster cogent, short responses to some of the obvious untruths uttered on stage. Here on the Internet we can show you to a story that counters the things Mr. Ford said, a luxury the candidates lacked:

Karen Stintz, John Tory, Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and Rob Ford shake hands.CP/Nathan Denette

Format, format, format

Some may say the format favoured the mayor's style over that of his more deliberate, no-drama opponents: Karen Stintz, David Soknacki and John Tory all seemed flummoxed by all the yelling and interrupting. A mix of inexperience and Mr. Ford’s own brash hectoring style seemed to keep them largely on the sidelines.

Jimmy Kimmel, the Mayor’s most high-profile supporter in the U.S. media (supportive in the sense that he hopes nobody closes the comedy gold mine), was watching, and shared his reactions on Twitter:

  • “oh my goodness, @TOMayorFord is JFK compared to some of these candidates”
  • “This Toronto Mayoral Debate is an SCTV sketch, right?”
  • “The View meets the WWE. Never has a better case for moderators been made”
REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Who smokes crack?

Hopefully you weren’t holding your breath waiting for the words “crack cocaine” to enter the debate, because more than an hour elapsed before a question from a journalist made candidate code words (“scandal,” “circus,” “nightmare”) explicit. Mr. Ford responded that his opponents and the media would like to “rewind, rewind, rewind” to old news.
For his part, Mr. Tory believes “I don’t need to repeat all the gory details for everybody to hear because I think they know it very well,” displaying a level of squeamishness for the political jugular.
REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Speaking of the jugular, did Olivia Chow connect?

Many believe this is a two-way race between Mr. Ford and the former NDP MP, city councillor and widow of Jack Layton. She zinged such harsh lines at Mr. Ford as: “It’s time to take down the circus tent at City Hall. Rob Ford has made Toronto an international embarrassment.”

But she also took some time to slap down Mr. Tory, referencing some ill-advised comments he made about women in the workplace. “I don’t really need to take any lessons from you, because we’re not a golf course right now,” she said.

Mr. Ford had a ready answer for her charges on his record, and returned fire at Ms. Chow for roles she played during former mayor David Miller’s tenure. If the battle between Ford and Chow is the main event in this election, this was just a skirmish.

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