I just had to call Jim Ruvolo yesterday, the day after the final televised debate of Toledo s mayoral campaign, with my lone burning question:
Hey, Jim, who was that guy last night you know, the one who went before the cameras and called himself the mayor and where s that guy been all this time?
I don t know, confessed Mr. Ruvolo, who s the campaign consultant for Toledo s incumbent mayor. It s the Jack Ford I know, but we ve had trouble getting him to be that guy. And I can t tell you why, Roberta.
See, there was this guy who showed up Tuesday night for the WTVG-Blade debate. This guy looked a lot like Mayor Ford. Sounded sort of like him too. And yet, there was something off about this guy, something different.
For one thing, someone finally found the speed-control knob on this guy.
While his voice sounded just like Jack Ford s, the missing molasses from the pace at which he spoke would have made anyone suspicious that the mayor didn t show up but his doppelganger did.
Plus, this guy s voice had actual inflection, and sounded nothing like the mayor s usual monotone.
And for another thing, this guy s whole demeanor was so un-Jack-like.
He was so sharp he was pointed.
He was so poised that his elusive sense of humor even came out to play.
He was so three-dimensional.
Yes, that s it! That guy who showed up wearing Jack Ford s suit was not the usual two-dimensional public persona of Toledo s mayor.
Which is not to say he won the debate.
No, the answer to that question depends very much on who you re having the conversation with.
But was Jack Ford a different guy than that other guy who s apparently been standing in for him during public appearances lo these many mayoral years?
Mr. Ford is someone I admire and respect for his intelligence, but for some reason he has not been able to project his good qualities for four years, his consultant said. I ve seen it in private, but no, I agree, I haven t seen that guy [from Tuesday night] since the last campaign.
As for Carty, he did Tuesday night what he has done (and needed to do) consistently throughout this campaign: He kept it together.
And by keeping it together, he continues with the critical strategy of removing all traces of his former unpredictable, combative self from our collective memory. Or, as I wrote in this space nearly four years ago:
Prediction: History will drape itself around Carty s shoulders as softly and gently as a king s robes.
In much the same way that we tend to remember the visits of house guests far more warmly in the weeks and months after their departure, so will it be in the years after the lights dim on the final press conference of the strongest of Toledo s strong mayors.
Judging by the recent polls, I had no idea how prescient I would be.