Looking at how a candidate campaigns can offer clues as to what kind of leader he'd be.
Philadelphians say they yearn for a leader who'll be mayor of the whole city, who'll rise above the grubby same-old, same-old at City Hall, who'll offer both vision and focus, who'll put city before self, who'll reach for new alliances with suburbs and Harrisburg.
There's only one candidate in this race who has risen steadily in the polls by drawing support from all races and all neighborhoods, while the other candidates drooped. That candidate is Michael Nutter.
There's only one candidate who from the start played rigorously by the new, reformed campaign finance rules, never whining, never cutting corners. That candidate is Michael Nutter. He knew the rules were important and would work - because he helped to write them.
Nutter has the clearest command of issues at forums. He doesn't take cheap shots at his opponents there - or in his television ads. He looks you in the eye and tells you what he'd do.
He has not burned bridges with the two congressmen and the state lawmaker who got into this race while hanging on to their day jobs. He knows the next mayor will have to work closely with them.
Two weeks ago, we recommended to the city's Democratic voters that MICHAEL NUTTER offered Philadelphia the most promising package of achievement, persistence, smarts and vision. The last 14 days have only reinforced that judgment.
In that time, Nutter has skyrocketed in polls and earned multiple media endorsements. The reasons are clear. Folks have figured out that Nutter is the one candidate of political reform whose record backs up his talk. Tom Knox may offer throw-the-bums-out slogans, but he has a business record littered with ethical lapses.
Folks can also tell that Nutter, who served on City Council 14 years and knows how the city budget really works, is honest about the tough choices and willing to show how he'd pay for his plans.
Voters can also see that, as the race reaches its final days, some candidates have thrown fair play out the window. In the latest of a long line of ads that hype his record beyond the facts, Knox now implies an endorsement from Gov. Rendell that simply never happened. Chaka Fattah flings wounding, unfair rhetoric at Nutter that seeks to divide this city over race and class.
In response, Nutter keeps focus on the things he'd like to do for his city.
Things such as responding with urgency to the rising murder rate. Such as cutting job-killing business taxes. Such as giving this beautiful city the visionary planning and sound zoning it deserves. Such as addressing the ills of poverty in the most effective way, by attracting good jobs and helping people develop the skills to do them. Such as making sure city workers' first response to customers is, "How may I help you?" not, "What do you want?"
If you'd like to see such things happen in your city, go with the guy who has already persevered in these causes inside City Hall. Go with the guy who's already held the banner of ethical and tax reform high on Broad Street amid constant flak. Go with the guy who has run a high-road campaign with effort, focus and class.
Our advice is: Go with Michael Nutter.