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The Globe and Mail

Goodfellas never quit, Rocco Rossi's team insists

Never mind the long-gun registry debate or the controversy over scrapping the mandatory long-form census. The real political action is in Toronto these days with just five weeks to go before the municipal election.

And there are more than a few familiar faces from Ottawa working behind the scenes for mayoralty candidates. If you hold an election they will come.

Michael Ignatieff's former war room chief, Warren Kinsella, is working on Rocco Rossi's bid for Toronto mayor. A recent poll, however, has him running far behind right-wing populist Rob Ford.

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The Nanos Research survey shows Mr. Ford with the support of 45.8 per cent of decided voters compared to 21.3 per cent for George Smitherman, the former Ontario health minister and deputy premier, 16.8 per cent for Joe Pantalone, who is serving as deputy mayor, and 9.7 per cent for Mr. Rossi.

And so the pressure is mounting on Mr. Rossi, a former national director of the Liberal Party, to step aside and throw his support behind Mr. Smitherman.

"The big question is: Who will tell Rocco Rossi he has no clothes," says a senior Bay St. strategist, who also dabbles in federal politics. "... Unless there is a hasty coalition between Smitherman and Rossi, in which, according to the poll numbers, Rocco has to throw in the towel."

But that's not going to happen. Mr. Rossi has just invested $100,000 on a new, aggressive ad campaign, highlighting his Italian heritage.

Part of the campaign is a poster of Mr. Rossi. It looks very much like it's from the blockbuster HBO television series, The Sopranos. "Rocco Rossi: Wise Guy," says one poster; "Rocco Rossi: Goodfella," says another.

"Rocco is everyone's second choice," Mr. Kinsella told The Globe. "And with five weeks to go, we believe he will be seen as the alternative to Rob Ford's Tea Party North nastiness."

"The chances of him dropping out - or of us telling him to - are zero."

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The new ads, meanwhile, were developed by the same team that created the 2003 "Great Hair" ads for Toronto Mayor David Miller. "And that ended not badly," Mr. Kinsella gloated.

Liberal Party pollster Michael Marzolini, meanwhile, is helping Mr. Smitherman. He says the only candidate within striking distance of Mr. Ford is the former deputy premier.

"The only contender who can possibly beat Ford is Smitherman, and he needs every vote he can get," the Grit pollster said.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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