Second-place mayoral candidate George Smitherman got an endorsement from a former rival as publisher Sarah Thomson abandoned her own electoral quest on Tuesday.

"She and I had some things in common, and we'll continue to focus on those," Smitherman, standing with Thomson, told reporters.

Thomson announced the decision a few hours earlier, asking voters to support Smitherman, who trails frontrunner Coun. Rob Ford in recent polls.

"Take a good look at the choice we have now. It is George Smitherman or Rob Ford," Thomson told CTV Toronto.

"We have got to save our city from what Rob Ford wants to do. He wants to decimate transit. He is not supportive of the social programs that I am, and George is. He is not supportive of the arts," she told CTV Toronto after stepping down.

Thomson said having Ford elected mayor in the Oct. 25 municipal election would be the worst thing that could happen to the city.

"We risk handing over the office of the greatest local influence on the basis of anger and reaction, not that of responsible, thoughtful and mature policy," she said.

The announcement comes after days of speculation that the businesswoman would pull out of the race, after a poll found Ford had pulled well in front of his competition -- and Thomson's own campaign failing to gain traction.

Thomson, a first-time mayoral candidate, made waves early in the campaign by becoming the first candidate to publicly suggest road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. Her vision was to use that money to fund subway extensions.

She also promised to make the city more appealing for filmmakers, and to apply the current tax on billboards to supporting the arts.

A new poll released Monday night suggested that Ford's lead had slipped, and that Smitherman could defeat Ford in a two-man race.

However, it's unclear it will ever dwindle to a two-candidate race.

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, considered to be in third place, brushed off Thomson's move. He told CP24 that at the day's end, she only controlled one vote.

Executive Rocco Rossi said he would be remaining in the campaign. He thought Thomson's move would help him.

"Our internal polling shows that the bulk of her voters will come my way because like me, she came from the outside and was not a career politician," he told CP24.

Ford brushed off the move.

"I can't really explain why Sarah is doing what she's doing, but I wish her all the best," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Thomson's name will remain on the ballot because she didn't resign as a candidate before the Sept. 10 deadline, Bonita Pietrangelo, the city's director of elections, told CTV News.

"If someone votes for Sarah Thomson on election night, you will see those votes next to her name," she said.

However, those votes will not count towards Smitherman's total, she confirmed. "The act does not have any provisions for someone to transfer (votes) to somebody else," she said.

New poll

An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted for Global News finds Ford's lead may have decreased over the past week.

The poll found that Ford is still the most popular choice for mayor with 28 per cent support, but is closely followed by Smitherman's 23 per cent. Three other potential candidates, Pantalone, Rossi and Thomson, each hover between seven and 10 per cent.

Beyond that, the poll suggests Smitherman, a former deputy premier, would beat Ford, the Etobicoke city councillor, in a two-man election.

Of 400 Toronto voters surveyed, 48 per cent said they would vote for Smitherman, while 45 per cent said they would vote for Ford if the election were between the two of them. That jumps to 57 per cent for Smitherman and declines to 37 per cent for Ford if narrowed down to those absolutely certain to vote on election day.

Surveys for the Ipsos-Reid poll were conducted between Sept. 24 and 26. With a sample size of 400, the margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

A Nanos Research poll conducted for CTV, The Globe and Mail and CP24 found Ford held a commanding lead over Smitherman. That poll surveyed 1,021 likely voters between Sept. 14 and 16. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

More than 34 per cent of those polled told Nanos they were supporting Ford, with his supporters coming from across the suburbs and in the downtown core. Smitherman received 16 per cent of support.

If one narrowed it down to decided voters, Ford had 45.8 per cent support to 21.3 per cent for Smitherman.

Since being crowned the clear leader, Ford has been the target of an "anyone but Ford" campaign that turned the spotlight of the campaign toward the 10-year council veteran.

The remaining candidates have taken steps to contrast their platforms and establish themselves as the alternative to Ford.

Smitherman had been actively calling for those who are supporting lagging candidates to rally behind him in a bid to overtake Ford.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Alicia Markson