The Best Money Can’t Buy

If I told you there was a public relations strategy that would win you a race you weren’t even in, and for free, would you believe me?

Probably not, but if you don’t believe me believe John Tory.

 (Photo courtesy of: Ontario PC Party on Flickr)

The quintessential Torontonian politician has essentially won the mayoral race without even filing his papers to run.

With a few botched runs under his belt, including his 2003 loss to current mayor David Miller, Tory is widely known, in general, to be a great candidate but a political loser.  For whatever reason, he can’t seem to win.

However, whether it is credited to an ingenious PR strategy or as a result of the many shortcomings of the current candidates, John Tory is the name on the lips of many Toronto residents.  Recent polls showed him as the candidate most Torontonians would vote for, swinging votes from current frontrunners Rob Ford and George Smitherman and second-choice favourite Rocco Rossi.

You’d think that any serious candidate would be in the race by now.  With all the public appearances, photo ops and debates (some even moderated by Tory), it would seem that the serious candidates have been solidified at this point.

However, along with these image-boosting opportunities there have also been scandals (see: Rob Ford’s drug tape ) and scraps (Red-faced Rob vs. Furious George), forcing voters to question whether these are the attitudes we want at City Hall. Notably absent from the campaign-killing fray? John Tory. [OH, and usually George Smitherman. He doesn’t need to campaign because he’s already won, dontchaknow.]

By sitting back and watching the other candidates flounder and fight, John Tory’s reputation has earned him the position as ‘The Man We Wish Would Run” amongst voters.  No need to enter the fray just yet – the incompetency of the current candidates have Torontonians begging for Tory to cave to pressure and run.

By the time the end of the summer rolls around, we will be sick of the other candidates and their presumably coy attempts at reaching out to every demographic (Rocco Rossi, I’m looking at you) or at solidifying their base (will we see Rob Ford at the Pride Parade or will that anger his Conservative friends?).  Should John Tory arrive at City Hall to file his papers, he would be backed by all but the most fervent supporters from the other campaigns.  All without paying a cent in campaign expenses.

For Tory, this might be the smartest PR move he’s made in years.  By keeping Torontonians guessing, with his “No…but never say never” schtick, Tory’s propelled himself into first place in a race he hasn’t formally entered.  Deliberate or not, every point against another candidate has become a point for Tory.  Now that’s great PR, whether he decides to run or not.

Will it make him the next mayor of Toronto? Will it prove detrimental to his campaign? Do you think it would work for anyone but Tory? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Nick

    While your analysis isn’t off, it does depend on John entering the race, something he will not do. You assume that his not entering the race is a part of a broader strategy masterminded by Tory himself, and not simply the results of:

    a) the unhappiness of a group of political elite advisors who are unable to get paying jobs with any of the current candidates (Read: Kinsella)

    b) The results of Tory’s own propensity for indecision.

    In reality, Tory has been quite clear in that he will not run for mayor, and has repeated that position several times. For him to enter the race very late in the game, such as at the end of the summer, would be a very foolish move.

    Even were things to play out exactly as you say, with the public disappointed in all of the other candidates and pining for Tory, he would have huge problems finding the volunteers necessary for success, not to mention fundraising enough money (1.3 million) in order to make his candidacy viable. More importantly, as a campaign moves forward voters become cemented in their opinions. Last-minute entry into a race holds significant peril for a candidate, as was proven by Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous foray into the 2007 republican presidential primary.

    In short, nobody would assume that Tory would enter the race if he hadn’t proven multiple times that he is a fickle and indecisive candidate. People with a serious stake in him running, i.e. people who could make money off of this, have capitalized upon this perception.

    If John enters the race with 2 months to go until election day, he will lose. I don’t think he’s that dumb.

  • Nick

    While your analysis isn’t off, it does depend on John entering the race, something he will not do. You assume that his not entering the race is a part of a broader strategy masterminded by Tory himself, and not simply the results of:

    a) the unhappiness of a group of political elite advisors who are unable to get paying jobs with any of the current candidates (Read: Kinsella)

    b) The results of Tory’s own propensity for indecision.

    In reality, Tory has been quite clear in that he will not run for mayor, and has repeated that position several times. For him to enter the race very late in the game, such as at the end of the summer, would be a very foolish move.

    Even were things to play out exactly as you say, with the public disappointed in all of the other candidates and pining for Tory, he would have huge problems finding the volunteers necessary for success, not to mention fundraising enough money (1.3 million) in order to make his candidacy viable. More importantly, as a campaign moves forward voters become cemented in their opinions. Last-minute entry into a race holds significant peril for a candidate, as was proven by Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous foray into the 2007 republican presidential primary.

    In short, nobody would assume that Tory would enter the race if he hadn’t proven multiple times that he is a fickle and indecisive candidate. People with a serious stake in him running, i.e. people who could make money off of this, have capitalized upon this perception.

    If John enters the race with 2 months to go until election day, he will lose. I don’t think he’s that dumb.