Rob Ford won. He won in Toronto - a city which is viewed by everyone as the leftist fortress; a city where no Conservative has been elected since early 90s where even the provincial PCs have had no chance for a decade or so. Moreover - his victory didn't happen in a specific riding or ward, not in an enclave populated mainly by supporters - he won a city-wide vote.
And, believe it or not, he managed to win without trying to look "moderate" and "progressive"; without pandering to the special interest groups, without backpedaling on allegedly "controversial" campaign promises; without muzzling his own team and without making promises to uphold the rivals' social policy in a pathetic attempt to attract the undecided voters from the rivals' camp... What a contrast compared to Stephen Harper's past campaigns!
See for yourself: Rob Ford was firm about ending handouts to unions and other special interest groups. He kept talking about the need to stop the "gravy train", even if his opponents didn't like his message. Compare that to Stephen Harper who, in the face of all the criticism from the left, ended up backpedaling on his decision to cut $60M from the worthless "arts" funding.
Rob Ford was straightforward in his opposition to the so called "fair wage" policy; he didn't care if his opponents were going to portray him as "anti-fairness". Here's a role model for Stephen Harper, whose party had voted unanimously to exclude the provision criminalizing speech from the "human rights" Act and who chose to do nothing about it out of fear of being portrayed as "anti-human rights".
Even when it came to social issues - Rob Ford had the courage to express his views on immigration and didn't burst in apologies when his comments were found to be controversial by the leftist media. What a contrast compared to Stephen Harper, with his repeated pledges to quash the fetal rights debate; a promise which (unlike so many others) he actually intends to keep (even if it means leaving women vulnerable to coercion) -- just to avoid looking "scary" in the eyes of the moderates...
Somehow, Rob Ford didn't really care about being viewed as "scary" by his opponents. He stood up for his principles, for what he believed in - and he won with 47%. Isn't that a little more than what the Conservatives typically get in Toronto?
Rob Ford won - not because the opposition was split and not because of the apathy and absenteeism in the opposition ranks. He won because so many non-voters, those long marginalized by the mainstream politicians, those who had long lost faith in voting, finally saw that there is a real man out there. A man who is a down-to-earth, common sense Conservative and who is not afraid to be a Conservative. So these people went out and cast their ballot. Compare that to how many votes did the Conservative (-trying-to-look-moderate) party gain in the last election.
So here's an example for Stephen Harper to follow. If being a real Conservative works in Toronto - it will work from coast to coast. It's not that hard, Stephen. Just stand up for the values and principles of the party that elected you leader about 7 years ago.