They said the mayor's race was his to lose and darned if he hasn't gone ahead and lost it.

If the results of the vote on Tuesday mirror the findings of the independent poll released today, then Anthony Hardy Williams will have gone from front-runner to loser in just a few months.

Despite the $1.3 million he spent, and the $6 million invested by the SuperPAC American Cities, it's likely that Williams will lose to Jim Kenney by double-digits, perhaps as much as 20 points.  That isn't a defeat, that is a debacle.

How did this happen?

That's a simple question and those are always the hardest to answer.

For starters, you have to consider not the campaign Williams ran, but the campaign Kenney ran, a nearly letter-perfect effort that was focused, from the start, on assembling coalitions.

Kenney began only with the support of organized labor as a sure thing. He broadened it out by going after the white liberal vote, the LBGT vote, the immigrant vote.  He also made a targeted effort to secure a decent portion of the black vote by going after the endorsement of influential African-American political leaders in the Northwest.

In the end, Kenney had the backing of every important constituency of the urban Democratic party, even the remnants of the white ethnic vote.  In the newly released poll commissioned by the Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com, and NBC10, Kenney is the No. 1 choice of every conceivable voter subgroup -- a list that includes white, blacks, voters of all ages, liberals, moderate and conservatives.  Only among one -- Hispanics -- does he come in second, behind Nelson Diaz.

Did it have to end up this way? No. Williams had a chance of winning white liberals. He could have worked to keep the Northwest politicians on board.  Instead, he retreated fairly early on to a stance that said, in so many words, if I can hold and maintain my base among black voters, I can win this.

In early figuring, I assumed Williams would get at least 60 percent of the black vote. As it turns out, it will more likely be 40 to 45 percent. And, since he is locked out at this stage of getting any new constituency, he could go down in the annals of city politics as the first major black candidate who could not get the majority of the black vote.

This campaign has been an odd one from the start. It should have been a contest over which of the candidates would best carry on the gains made during the Michael Nutter years. But Nutter was the invisible man, as far as the candidates were concerned.  He's ending his eight years in office with a 60 percent approval rating -- which is excellent.

So, the race wasn't about continuity. And it wasn't about ideology. No candidate drifted far from the center-left stance of most Democrats in this city.

So what was the campaign about? In a sense, it was about nothing -- not continuity, not change, not ideology.

The only thing left is personality. Which candidate struck voters as the one who exhibits leadership? They've given their answer in today's poll. Kenney has a 68 percent favorable rating, the highest among any candidate. And he has the lowest negative.

Lynne Abraham has a good favorable -- at 59 percent -- but while voters seem to like Abraham, they simply do not see her as mayor.

That leaves Williams, who has spent this campaign recasting his image and reinterpreting his stands. He entered the race as the pro-charter candidate, and then went out of his way to tell people he was so very pro-public school.

He evoked the past -- and his father, state Sen. Hardy Williams -- to portray himself in the tradition of ground-breaking black candidates. Later, he evoked the future, offering his grandson as his rationale for running.

The man who helped bring John Timoney and the data-driven, "broken windows" theory of policing to the city ended up repudiating its modern proponent, Commissioner Charles Ramsey (who, it turns out in the poll, is the most popular public official in the city.)

He took credit for programs on gun violence, getting money for the schools, and starting training programs for minorities where, in truth, he played a secondary role.

He wanted people to believe he led the parade, when he only sat in the bandwagon.

He told people he was a leader in the hope they would see him as a leader. But his laid-back persona couldn't compete with the hard-charging Kenney and feisty Abraham.

Williams seemed sure of himself, but it was certainty without passion. And once he started to drift away from the positions that had once defined him, he seemed to disappear into the fog.

By trying to be everything to everybody, he ended up as everyone's second or third or fourth choice. Now that's a recipe for defeat.