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And the winners in Tampa today will be …

1. Rose Ferlita and Dick Greco.

Today the voters of Tampa will choose two of the five candidates for mayor to meet in a runoff election on March 22, three weeks from today.

The early front-runners have been Greco, the former four-time mayor who is seeking a comeback, and Ferlita, a former county commissioner and City Council member.

Greco has the biggest name and reputation, the most recognition, the most money, and the biggest part of the old guard lined up behind him.

Sure, he's 77, and he's been given lately to gaffes that remind people of it. Old-school, loose style. But organization counts. A large number of absentee ballots turned in pre-gaffe also might work in his favor.

Ferlita has run a resilient campaign throughout. Her brand is herself — Rose is Rose. Deeply rooted in the community, small-business owner, common sense, elected experience. Not many specifics. It's worked.

This leaves out the oh-so-practiced Bob Buckhorn, a former City Council member and mayoral aide, Ed Turanchik, the smartest and most likely to veer into a detailed discussion of housing policy, and Tom Scott, the current council chairman.

2. Ferlita and Buckhorn.

Or Greco fades.

The gaffes catch up with Greco after all. That bit about comparing 1960s racial violence to "a panty raid." His joke — misunderstood and taken out of context, but still not good — about how Scott, the only black candidate, could serve as his driver.

The downside of name recognition is that people remember they don't like you, too. Some people have been asking: If we elect Greco again, how often will we be wincing in embarrassment? How many department head scandals will there be while he chuckles and says, "Oh, those wacky fellas"?

Besides, this election will have a smaller turnout, with a group of voters presumably in the know. Greco would do better with a more casual vote based on sheer name ID.

The most likely beneficiary from a Greco fade is Buckhorn, who is everybody's second choice. No, literally — he was the most popular second choice in a St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll. Speaks well for his chances as the upset pick.

3. Ferlita and Turanchik.

Less likely. But if there's a small electorate presumably paying attention, an idea guy like Turanchik has a better chance to demonstrate his merits. The February poll showed 30 percent undecided, which gave both Buckhorn and Turanchik room to make up ground.

4. Buckhorn and Turanchik.

Yet this requires both Ferlita and Greco to collapse. Greco has had his troubles, but Ferlita hasn't shown any sign of it.

5. Greco and either Buckhorn or Turanchik.

Again requiring both Greco's survival and a Ferlita disappearance.

6. Tom Scott and anybody.

Cruel world that it is, elections are not based on personal merit, but on winning the most votes.

Scott the council chairman, who was in last place in the February poll with only 4 percent of the vote, has not shown any sign of catching up.

So who's it going to be?

You're asking me?

Greco and Ferlita, still.

Or … Ferlita and Buckhorn.

What, no waffling allowed?

Okay. Greco and Ferlita. Still.

And the winners in Tampa today will be … 02/28/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 28, 2011 6:36pm]
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