Six things we learned at Rob Ford’s campaign launch

Six things we learned at Rob Ford’s campaign launch

Rob Ford's campaign launch

Rob Ford held his official campaign launch at the Toronto Congress Centre on Thursday night, and it was quite a party. Here, six things we learned while we were there. (Or, for the shorter version, click through the image gallery above.)

1. There are plenty of people still willing to overlook his mistakes
An interesting thing seems to have occurred in Ford Nation: people have gone from not believing in the mayor’s personal problems to not caring about them. “I think the journalists oversell it to sell more newspapers,” Jurgen Staerz, a 50-year-old Ford supporter from High Park, told us. “But I know there are some things he did do wrong.”

2. He’s really committed to that “billion dollars” line
The centrepiece of Rob Ford’s re-election pitch is the notion that he has saved taxpayers “a billion dollars” over the course of his term. This claim has been thoroughly debunked, but Ford evidently believes he’s entitled to his own facts. The billion-dollar line featured prominently in his launch speech, and there was even a fire truck parked inside the Congress Centre with a giant “saved taxpayers $1 billion” sign attached to its side. (Incidentally, Toronto firefighters were pretty annoyed by the presence of the truck.)

3. He knows how to draw a crowd
There were easily a couple thousand people at the event, making Ford’s the largest of any of the 2014 campaign launches we’ve seen to date. The room was the size of an aircraft hangar, though, and the round tables that had been set up for guests were never more than about a quarter occupied. It seemed as though the Fords were expecting a larger crowd than they got.

When the mayor entered the room to give his launch speech, he was preceded first by his security team, then by bagpipes, then cameramen. Trailing behind him was a column of dozens of sign-waving volunteers.

4. There’s serious money behind his campaign
Olivia Chow held her campaign launch in a small church. John Tory held his in a rented room in a Polish combatants’ hall and read his speech off a page. Rob Ford read his speech off a teleprompter on a stage in a convention centre, with good sound, lighting and video projection. Attendees were given tickets that entitled them to a free beer or glass of wine. A live band played covers of crowd-pleasing rock songs. The level of extravagance on display was beyond what any of the other candidates would be able to muster, and it couldn’t have been cheap.

5. People love the bobbleheads
Off to the side of the room, there was a table selling different types of Rob Ford bobbleheads. The line of buyers was long throughout the night—and not because the figurines were such a great bargain. They were $30 (or $100 for the “special edition,” with Ford wearing his crack-confession tie), and the profits went directly to Rob Ford’s campaign.

Jordan Paolucci, a criminal defense lawyer from Etobicoke, was one of the people waiting for his chance to buy. “It’s a moment in history,” he said, adding that he hoped to pass the figurine on to his kids.

6. He can get away with saying pretty much anything
From the perspective of an outsider, Ford’s launch speech was jaw-dropping. For one thing, it was remarkably well delivered. There were very few verbal stumbles, and he seemed to know exactly which lines would elicit cheers from the crowd. (One of the biggest cheers came when he said, “This is so much better than speaking to a wall of reporters.”)

Often, the most successful lines were exaggerations or outright lies. At one point, Rob Ford, the guy who misled the public about his substance issues, who doesn’t release his schedule and who frequently spends hours away from city hall with no explanation, called himself “the most open, honest, fair, hardworking mayor that this city has ever seen.” The most.

Like other Ford campaign speeches, this one dwelt upon his status as a champion of the little guy. He referred several times to “elites” who would “take money out of your pockets and put it in theirs.” He admitted to having made some personal mistakes, but appealed to the crowd’s “spirit of second chances.”