skdadl---unscientific theory but remember that Smitherman declared early for mayor after realizing that McGuinty wasn't going anywhere? And early on his entitlement as mayor-to-be seemed cool as there didn't appear to be any opponents of note? When Ford entered the race, he was seen as a joke candidate. The "proper" people got fussy, including the major media and the pollsters, and things got ugly.
If Smitherman (who in typical Liberal style morphed into Ford/latched onto the same platform) had been successful, campaigning on contracting out, cutting the "waste", etc...that would mean that a huge majority of Torontonians endorsed the Ford agenda. But the people who voted for Ford (and a bunch who held their nose & voted for Smtherman) would still be steamed and McGuinty would be in their crosshairs. Ford will be a target of McGuinty (and not have any IOUs to call in). Plus, if Ford had lost a close race to Smitherman, Steve would be on the phone tomorrow trying to recruit him as a candidate next federal election. The Conservatives haven't had a candidate in the 416 since the Mulroney days? So McGuinty is happy because Smitherman is neutered & Ford is Toronto's problem. It will be easy to paint Tim Hudak (an empty, weak candidate whose claim to fame is that he isn't McGuinty) as scary. People may well chose another term of McGuinty, forgetting the G20 & other scandals, opting for the boring/familiar.
Mayor is just one vote on council. Ford will not have the power to unilaterally do much. Smitherman would have been much more dangerous. It was scary how much power the "establishment" wielded over this election. Dubious polls, forcing candidates out of the race, media smears (since when is it progressive to make fat (Ford) or short (Pantalone) jokes?)