So the prodigal son drops out of the race after receiving only 4% of the vote in the latest poll. I'm saddened by the fact, as I was rooting for him, but I'm not surprised either. But it leaves the three remaining contenders (or at the least the ones with a chance) wondering what impact it will have on the race.
Given that between 4-7% of the Toronto electorate supported Rossi, the likelihood of his numbers becoming a game changer for Ford, Smitherman, or Pantalone, is slim. I also doubt that the majority of Rossi's supporters will flow to Ford, as is evident with endorsements from a good portion of people you can't call Ford supporters, and Liberals that are out there that wouldn't consider voting Ford with anything short of a gun to their heads.
But Rossi dropping out can benefit the remaining candidates, specifically George Smitherman, in two big ways: more publicity and airtime for them (always a benefit in a close race), and the more Smitherman's application of pressure on the other candidates in the "stop Ford" bid seems credible and real, meaning there would be more pressure on Mr. Pantalone, who is clearly not gaining traction among a large portion of the population.
But, the fact is Pantalone is David Miller's candidate, and he will most likely not drop out because the city's Dipper establishment wants a standard bearer. Rossi or Thomson capitulating to Smitherman (ostensibly the city's token Liberal/TorStar candidate) isn't surprising because they were not the candidates of any political establishment, while Pantalone is. The NDP is a fairly shrivelled up force in the city at this point, but don't think they'll go down without a fight, especially in a fight against the Liberals.
That leaves Mr. Smitherman with a dilemma, because a split in the progressive vote is enough to give Ford's chances considerable weight (no pun intended). The fact is that, yes, there is a lot of undecideds and they may well break George's way, but that's hardly the way to lock up your vote.
If Smitherman wants to win this race, he has to beat down Pantalone, and beat him down hard. Ensure that Pantalone retains his base support of maybe 10-15% of voters, but not much else. Let Ford keep his base of angry voters that runs around 30%, and Smitherman can gobble up the rest - especially now that Rossi and Thomson aren't competing for those votes.