Hard to avoid this conclusion.
Another poor couple of days for Ravenstahl, paired with a really solid week or two by DeSantis -- all coming just prior to debate season -- is leading to a contest whose outcome is fundamentally uncertain.
Weeks ago the city sent a direct mail piece, bearing the mayor's signature, in which he invited residents to "please join me" for Tuesday night's meeting at the Pittsburgh Project. Some 150 people attended, with some chanting "Where is the mayor?"
"It was a mistake by the office," he said. "The letter that went out was technically wrong." (P-G, Rich Lord)
The invitation can be accessed here. You make the call whether or not this qualifies as a technical and administrative mistake.
As far as we're concerned, you can forget the "Please join me." We wonder if every appearance by Neighborhood Initiatives Coordinator Jennifer Watson warrants a direct mail blast bearing such a campaign-style headline, and the Mayor's personal signature.
KDKA's Jon Delano has challenger Mark DeSantis going on the offensive, faulting the Mayor for getting North Siders to rearrange their schedules and lives for what amounted to a false alarm.
UPDATE: The story got worse. Basically, the administration told a TV reporter he was definitely not at that Red Sox game, and it turns out (we find out from the developers in Boston) that he definately was at that Red Sox game.
In fact, Luke may have been on the Jumbo Tron.
Sources indicate to the Comet that the Mayor really did not want to meet with Northside United. We surmise that perhaps Ravenstahl changed his mind about the importance of that particular community meeting, after he became aware that Northside United was getting itself involved.
The calendar for casino planning approvals is approaching far sooner than that of the hockey arena, and there is a lot more civic money at stake if the process gets slowed up.
Now that his absence has blossomed into a healthy scandal, it will be interesting to see whether or not Ravenstahl elects to meet with and acknowledge the rambunctious group in the coming weeks.
You may have noticed parallels between this story, and an earlier one in which the Mayor failed to attend a meeting of Hill District leaders in the immediate aftermath of the deal to keep the Penguins in the city.
You may also have noticed that in both cases, the snubbed citizens are engaged, organized, actively campaigning on high-profile issues ... and black.
You may be thinking that by selecting Nate Harper and Daryl Jones as his police and fire chief respectively, the incumbent Ravenstahl had pretty well sewn up this constituency.
You may be forgetting that once upon a time, the black community was duly impressed by the high-level appointments of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice. That didn't last long at all.
Watch this second Jon Delano piece from KDKA, in which challenger Mark DeSantis unveils his economic development plan in the Hill District.
A pretty warm reception for a Republican -- and it does not appear staged or scripted at all.
Consider this alongside DeSantis's improvisational performance when unveiling his public safety plan on the North Side ("I don't want to just be seen to care -- I do care"), and you're getting the picture of a candidate who may just be realizing he is comfortable, and he has something to offer, out in the 'hood.
Incidentally, Ravenstahl was quizzed on missing that North Side meeting by the Trib's Jeremy Boren, at a forum hosted by the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Committee.
More Comet sources indicate that a 14WIDC endorsement of challenger Mark DeSantis is far, far, far from out of the question.
Do you see a picture coming into focus?