Rob Ford is in deep trouble

The classic 1940 Preston Sturges film, The Great McGinty, presents itself as a cautionary tale against changing one’s nature.

The movie shows us two fallen men. One, a good man, is undone because he commits one bad act. The other, a bad man, causes his own downfall by performing one good deed.

The film is satire, but there might be a lesson in there somewhere for Toronto’s embattled mayor, the overweight, crack-smokin’, hard-drinkin’, woman groppin’ (well, allegedly woman-groppin’ anyway) Rob Ford.

Ford is trying to clean up his act. Unfortunately, that effort doesn’t appear to be winning him any friends.

For a while it seemed this bad boy could do no wrong. No matter how much crap Ford’s enemies flung at him—or do-do he stepped in himself—he remained popular with the folks who elected him.

Indeed, all the controversy seemed to make him even stronger. He became an international media star when his crack smoking antics turned into fodder for American late night TV show hosts.

In the middle of what should have been political hell for the man, Ford managed to jet down to Los Angeles at the beginning of March to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, effectively becoming the most famous Canadian in the whole U.S.A.

That seemed to be the high-water mark. As his re-election campaign started to gear up, Ford suddenly felt the need to reform himself. He headed off to rehab. Since that day, his popularity has been dropping like pounds off a weight loss reality show contestant.

Maybe its like the old song says, “Don’t go changing to try to please me… I love you just the way you are.” Or it could be that the electorate is just tired of all the controversy.

Ford has fallen so far in the polls that it looks like he’s pretty much done politically. A recent survey shows his approval rating down to 26%, last place in a field of five candidates.

The same June 6 poll put the two top contenders for Ford’s job in the over 60% range; John Tory, a former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, is on top with 68%, while Olivia Chow close behind with 64%.

Admittedly, Ford’s approval rating has never been that high. He has been pretty much a lightning rod for controversy ever since he entered politics. In his first campaign, in 2010, he was caught lying about marijuana possession and DUI charges he faced down in Miami in 1999.

That didn’t hurt Ford too much. He was elected with 47% of the vote on a platform of cutting government waste and lowering taxes.

And that’s where his approval rating stayed, even after the accusations of drunken behavior, drug use and allegations of groping fellow female politicians started mounting. His constituents didn’t seem to care what their mayor did on his own time, as long as he did what they elected to do. In mid-April this year, he was still at 46%.

But then, at the end of April, just as more videos of a drunk Rob Ford were to be made public, he suddenly said he needed help. He took a leave of absence from the campaign and checked into an addictions treatment center in Ontario’s cottage country.

So while his opponents have been slugging it out in the media, calling each other names and debating hot button local issues like light rail transit expansion, Ford has been relaxing away from it all, taking swims, going for walks, generally getting healthy.

A picture of him standing in the middle of a swimming poll in all his fleshy, rotund glory with a gigantic smile on his face made the front page of a local paper at the beginning of June.

Toronto’s municipal election isn’t until the end of October. The campaigning started in March, so maybe taking a break from an eight-month municipal campaign snore-fest isn’t such a bad idea.

Despite being down and out, Ford has promised to charge hard once he’s taken the cure. He intends to launch his re-election campaign on July 1, Canada Day, (a day, incidentally, on which many Canadians like to party as hardy as Toronto’s mayor once did).

Who knows? Maybe Ford can manage a comeback. It’s hard to discount a politician who once tried to deflect an allegation about him smoking crack cocaine by saying that he was probably too drunk to remember what he did, and got away with it. The audacity and originality of that maneuver was simply jaw dropping.

If he loses, Ford has promised not to run again and says he will move to California. Apparently, he enjoyed himself there while doing Jimmy Kimmel Live!

And that’s perfectly in keeping with his nature.


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