Emerging from an elevator on the fourth floor of Toronto's Board of Trade to face a bank of cameras and fists clutching tape recorders, Rob Ford looked just a little bit stunned.
But he stuck to the script, his communications director nodding vigorously behind him.
"It's going great. My message is resonating with voters. They're sick and tired of the spending at City Hall."
The day after a Globe and Mail/CTV/CP24/Nanos poll put the grandiloquent Etobicoke councillor at the head of a splintered mayoral race, he was also facing questions that risked - as he put it - derailing that single-minded goal.
"Absolutely, a platform's coming," he said in response to a reporter's question. "But [my]number-one concern is the spending at City Hall. You can try to derail me, you can try to shift. But we're talking about the spending at City Hall today, and that's what I'm concentrating on."
The poll showed Mr. Ford edging just ahead of former deputy premier George Smitherman - with Mr. Ford at 17.8 per cent and Mr. Smitherman at 15.9 per cent.
That's within the poll's margin of error of 3.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20. But it was enough to shift the dynamics of a race in which Mr. Smitherman had been the accepted front-runner.
It also had even Mr. Ford's most stalwart political City Hall compatriots wondering what a council led by Mayor Ford would look like.
"I don't think it's surprising," said Councillor Doug Holyday. The right-leaning Etobicoke councillor (and former mayor of the city of Etobicoke) has been one of Mr. Ford's long-time allies when it comes to reining in what they see as a spendthrift council. But he has hesitated to endorse Mr. Ford - or anyone else, for that matter.
"If I were going to the polls tomorrow I really would not know what to do. … He's certainly touched a nerve with a lot of people, but I also find that people that are somewhat receptive to him would like to see some of these points put forward but maybe by somebody with a better grounding."
Mr. Holyday isn't alone in his indecision: Almost 40 per cent of the 1,000 people polled said they plan to vote but have no idea whom they will choose.
Many people, dissatisfied with the current roster, have been calling on John Tory to run. The talk radio host and former leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives was circumspect Monday.
"I was very clear in January. … In politics, to say 'never' is something I think is unwise," he said. "As of the moment, I have no plans to have any plans to be a candidate."
At the time, Mr. Ford cited Mr. Tory's January decision not to run as one of the factors convincing him to have a go at the mayor's chair. But Monday he said that regardless of what Mr. Tory ends up deciding, he'll stay in the race
"I've liked John, I've always liked John. And I'll guarantee that no matter who runs, I'll be on the ballot for mayor on Monday, Oct. 25. And that's pretty well it."
Councillor Shelley Carroll echoed George Smitherman's spokesman Stefan Baranski when she said the poll is a "wakeup call" for the other candidates.
"People like to know exactly where their candidate stands. And I don't know that they're totally comfortable with Councillor Ford, but they know where he stands," she said.
Here's a look at some of the other findings of the GlobeandMail/CTV/CP24/Nanos poll.
58.8 per cent
34.5 per cent
Giving voters the ability to cast their ballots online has been touted as a vital way to boost turnout, especially among younger, web-savvier generations statistically far less likely to hoof it out to polling stations.
Detractors note it can make vote-swaying more of a possibility, however: It's impossible to tell whether there's someone giving instructions over a voter's shoulder as he or she sits in front of a computer.
Markham adopted online voting in its 2003 election. In the 2006 election, more than 10,000 people voted online, for a total voter turnout of 36 per cent.
Candidate Joe Pantalone has pledge that, if elected, he'll bring online voting to Toronto by 2014.
Converting limited road space into bikes-only lanes has long been considered a political hot potato, but the idea of creating more dedicated bike lanes garnered high support in all parts of the city: The majority of respondents in all areas either supported or somewhat supported the idea.
This appears to contradict councillors' fears that endorsing new, segregated bike lanes - a pilot project for which died unexpectedly in a close vote during May's city council - would be political suicide, especially outside the downtown core.
Reducing the number of city councillors
67.4 per cent
20.8 per cent
You know voters are upset when they want to get rid of their politicians altogether. Councillor Rob Ford has long said he would slice council in half, axing 22 of the 44 councillors in time for the 2014 election. This wouldn't reduce representation for residents, he insists, but would make City Hall more efficient.
35.1 per cent
56.9 per cent
Transit planners, traffic experts and even the Toronto Board of Trade have said the region needs to start looking at road tolls as a way to manage congestion and raise money for transportation infrastructure. But the suggestion is consistently unpopular with voters; Sarah Thomson and Giorgio Mammoliti are the only candidates who've made it part of their platforms; the rest have ruled it out as something they'd pursue as mayor.
Selling Toronto Hydro
26.2 per cent
60.4 per cent
Candidate Rocco Rossi has said he'd sell Toronto Hydro and use the money to pay off the city's debt. The $450-million saved from those annual debt payments would go towards transit infrastructure, he says.
The other candidates have distanced themselves from selling Toronto Hydro, although they haven't ruled out the possibility of monetizing other city assets, notably Enwave, of which the city owns a part.
Members of the city's current executive committee, for their part, went to great lengths Monday to express their opposition to monetizing Toronto Hydro and its ilk when they shot down a motion that would have made that process far easier (and more profitable) for the city by asking the province to waive transfer taxes the city's now obliged to pay on privatized public assets.