Now that the ups and downs of the public and private lives of Anthony Weiner, aka “Carlos Danger” have thoroughly hijacked discussions and coverage the New York City mayoral race, all of the attention is focused squarely on the future of the prurient politician's campaign.
Can Weiner really stay in the race and convince New Yorkers to forgive or at least overlook his lasciviousness, or will he be forced to step down once again, this time from the mayoral race, likely ending his political caree?
The International Business Times spoke Monday with a number of veteran political observers from Queens, a large swath of which Weiner represented in the U.S. House of Representatives as recently as two years ago. Some of these insiders believe he's dead in the water, while others think that he may yet find a way to win given the unique eccentricities of this year's field of Democratic mayoral candidates.
Steve Behar, a Queens Democratic political activist, said that though he believed he “had a very good chance” to win the race before the new scandal emerged, the end is now nigh for Weiner’s political ambitions.
“I think the wheels have come off his campaign, and there’s nothing left. I think he’s probably going to have to -- I hate to use the pun -- but he’s going to have to pull out of the race in the end,” Behar said. “It’s over. I think Americans, and New Yorkers, specifically, are willing to give someone a second chance, but I don’t think they’re willing to give someone a third chance, especially this close to finding out what happened.”
Still, Weiner has not been charged with a crime, and the remarkably weak crop of Democratic primary candidates -- not to mention the dismal GOP ticket -- offers the rare opportunity for someone as thoroughly tainted as Weiner to continue to stay alive in the highest-profile mayoral race in the nation.
And Weiner himself has said he's in it for the long haul and that he has no intention of dropping out anytime soon.
"We knew this would be a tough campaign," Weiner said Sunday on a campaign stop in Brooklyn. "We have an amazing staff, but this isn't about the people working on the campaign. It's about the people we're campaigning for."
Al Centola, a Queens Democratic political observer and leader of the Malba Gardens Civic Association, said that he believes that due to what he sees as a lack of any credible, electable challengers other than current poll leader City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Weiner still might end up filling Bloomberg’s well-worn wingtips.
“The scary thing is I think he still has a shot. All this is doing is creating a whirlwind of free publicity. People don't like Quinn and they see her as the only serious candidate,” Centola said. “People don't want another four to eight to 12 years of Bloomberg. And many people view Quinn as an extension of Bloomberg. If more comes out I, see him stepping down. If nothing else comes out, I could see him [sticking] it out. Either way, the future seems bleak for New York City.”
Devon O’Connor, a young Queens political observer and head of the Welcome to Whitestone Commercial and Residential Civic Association, seems to agree that Weiner is not entirely done for, though his candidacy has been irreparably damaged by the scandals.
“He would have had a chance at redemption had he stopped ‘sexting’ when he resigned and apologized, but since it continued after his resignation, it's really just pathetic now,” O’Connor said. “I think he still has a shot, but it's tough to see which way it's going to go.”
Adam Lombardi, a Queens Democratic community advocate and creator of the blog Queens Politics, also believes that Bloomberg can make it to Gracie Mansion despite all his transgressions.
"Weiner, a candidate who has repeatedly taken over 60% of the vote in previous elections, penis pictures notwithstanding, is not to be underestimated at the polls, and further we see the conservative news lobby demanding his resignation as if he was already the Mayor – they didn't even do that to Guiliani and he cheated on his wife while he was in Gracie Mansion!" he said via email.
In the course of a few days in 2011, Weiner went from well-known congressman and leading candidate to replace Mike Bloomberg as New York City mayor to a disgraced pariah forced to step down from office amid a torrid “sexting” scandal.
And then we didn’t hear much from him for a couple of years as he and wife Huma Abedin avoided the spotlight while picking up the pieces of their lives and working out their marital difficulties.
Then a strange thing happened, and Weiner reemerged this spring from the shadows in a well-crafted PR coup, owning up to his mistakes, Abedin at his side, ready to face up to his shortcomings and throw his hat into the free-for-all known as this year’s mayoral primary.
He made an immediate impact, quickly surpassing Quinn, the race’s front-runner, in a key citywide poll, and attracting a media circus everywhere he went.
But then it all turned dark again, as we learned last week of his “Carlos Danger” sexcapades with a young, naïve Indiana college student and as many as three other women, all after he abdicated his congressional seat and promised to “never, ever” do any such thing again.
Weiner said when he began his mayoral run that it would be a difficult and unconventional campaign, but no one could have imagined anything as juicy and damning as the new scandal.
But it reared its ugly head nonetheless, captivating the national media and disgusting scores of voters.
His standing in the mayor’s race has dropped accordingly, as an NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll conducted entirely after the “Carlos Danger” scandal broke and released on Thursday had him trailing Quinn, 25 percent to 16 percent. That’s a big drop from a late June Marist poll that had him beating her 25 percent to 20 percent.
Many leading politicos who have followed Weiner’s career for years have written him off entirely, and even his campaign manager Danny Kedem announced over the weekend that he is quitting the campaign.
Weiner’s political future remains up in the air for now, as he continues to try to earn back the trust of New York voters. But if the chips do fall and Weiner has to withdraw his candidacy, it will just usher in the next round of intrigue, as the support the former congressman drew away from the other candidates gets redistributed.
“I think from a purely political standpoint that the most interesting part of this is that as Weiner’s support dwindles or if he steps out of the race, where that support goes,” Behar said.
And another Queens political observer, who asked not to be identified by name, said Monday that he sees all the hubbub in the Democratic race as a major boon for Republican candidates like former New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Joe Lhota.
“I don't know Weiner, except by reputation,” he said via email. “But the continual Democratic circus at both mayoral and comptroller levels seems to me as ensuring a Lhota win. He must be relishing the clown acts.”
The election is drawing near, but the fun is only just beginning.