You can always sniff when a mayoral election campaign is in the offing as politicians begin to talk and act tough when it comes to public enemy #1. Forget terrorism or affordable housing: In Seattle, our Bin Laden is potholes. This week, Mayor Greg Nickels kicked off his "war on potholes." Hizzoner has dispatched the city's "Pothole Rangers to fill a record number over the next week. The city will dedicate extra crews and equipment to attack the worst axle-benders in Seattle from March 19-26." The TV cameras were out catching the mayor in the field personally directing the front-line activities of his special squad of pothole warriors. Images were captured of the mayor looking on as steaming piles of asphalt were dumped and spread into nasty-looking chucks in the streets. We're not only tracking down our enemies, but filling-in spider holes! Clearly, this was something that needed executive supervision. This is not the first time Nickels has gone to war over potholes. In fact, filling potholes was a priority of his first 100 days in office. Careers in Seattle have been made and lost on the pothole question. Nickels' predecessor, Paul Schell, said he'd fixed "thousands of potholes" during his term, but was generally criticized for being big on vision and forgetful when it came to potholes. One piece of evidence? During the Schell administration, even the alley behind the mayor's own condo had potholes! What kind of mayor won't or can't fix his own potholes? An ethical one, you might answer. Sure, but you wouldn't find that in the city of Nickels' birth, Chicago. And before Schell, there was Norm Rice, who was also seen as soft on potholes — Seattle may be a peacenik city, but when it comes to potholes, we don't want a "Mayor McGovern" waving the white flag when it comes to fixin' streets. Especially when potholes try to take over, like this monster that tried to eat Ravenna! Pundits have declared the importance of not falling into the political pothole of forgetting about potholes. We are reminded that populist Charlie Chong's political rise was tied to potholes. Joel Connelly has sometimes yearned for a pothole strongman, and Joni Balter has editorialized about the centrality of potholes to Seattle's civic life. So, in the run-up to a re-election bid, Nickels knows that it's time to get off the pothole and do a mayor's business.