Anyone contemplating a run against Rob Ford in 2014 might as well fuggedaboutit now that lawyer/lobbyist, political fixer and fab fundraiser Ralph Lean has offered the mayor his support in a front-pager in the Globe, right?
Not so fast.
There are many reasons why a Lean-backed Ford campaign would be a train wreck for the incumbent mayor. Here are seven deadly ones.
In municipal election races, it's money and organization that win out, or so the theory goes. Except that's not always the case. See Ford's win in 2010. His main rival, George Smitherman, who had Lean in his corner back then, raised twice as much cash, and look where that got him. The pre-amalgamation arrangement where a bunch of suits sat around a kitchen-cabinet table deciding who was going to be the next mayor is long gone.
If it's populist appeal that Ford's after, then having a rainmaker/political bagman to the stars with a Bay Street business address won't do his down-home-boy rep much good. As one Liberal spinner told me, "I'd bet it loses him votes - a lot of them."
There's more on the bad optics front in a Lean-backed Ford mayoral run. Robo's already deep in Lean's pocket. Lest we forget, it was Lean and the backroom boys at his law firm, Cassels Brock, who organized that Harmony fundraising dinner for Ford so he could pay back the three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar debt he incurred during the campaign. Political favours? With Lean at the helm, we'll sure see a few.
Where there's smoke.... Check the who's who on Lean's list of clients in his other role as political lobbyist. More than two dozen strong on the Queen's Park lobbyist registry alone. Lean doesn't boast the biggest Rolodex in the biz for nothing. He also counts former U.S. president George Bush Sr. as a fishing buddy.
You know what they say about too many chefs? The same applies to politics. The beauty of the Ford mayoralty run in 2010 was its simplicity, not only in terms of its messaging (gravy train, anyone?) but on the ground, too. It was as close to a family-run affair as you'll get - a closed shop to outsiders. Ford axed three campaign managers before settling on Nick Kouvalis. Will the big-money backers offering their support via Lean be able resist the temptation to buff the mayor's image and put their stamp on him? The answer, of course, is no. And that's where trouble for Ford begins. He won last time because he was the anti-candidate.
Lean can't be serious. As legendary as his rep is for backing winners, he's also known as a shameless self-promoter. He could have just been talking out his ass when he vowed his public support for Ford to the Globe, sending a signal to prospective clients that if they want access to the mayor, he's the man. Worked like a charm. He got page one.
There's no guarantee Ford's angling for a re-election He's been absent for long stretches during his first term. A perfect storm brought him to office, but next time he'd have to run on his record, which is practically non-existent.