This year’s second big comeback bid by a disgraced ex-congressman got underway at midnight, and it came in a manner the New York tabloids might describe as “Weiner’s soft launch.”
Anthony Weiner — who resigned his House seat in disgrace 23 months ago, after his sexting and his lies were exposed — declared his candidacy for mayor of New York in a video posted on You Tube without any advance notice.
"Look, I've made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down, but I have also learned some tough lessons,” Weiner says in the 2 minute spot. “I am running for mayor because I have been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life, and I hope I get a second chance to work for you.”
The announcement was much less overtly contrite, and alluded to his downfall much more obliquely, than the approach his former colleague Mark Sanford took this spring. In Sanford's successful campaign to reclaim his former House seat, he repeatedly sought his constituents’ forgiveness for using state money to travel overseas for an extramarital affair, and lying about it, when he was the Republican governor of South Carolina.
The stylistic difference may have something to do with the very culturally different constituencies the two would represent. Surely, part of it is that Jenny Sanford divorced her husband in a fury, while Huma Abedin quietly stayed at her husband’s side. In the climactic scene in the announcement video, Abedin sits beside Weiner on the stoop of a townhouse and offers her endorsement: “We love this city and no one will work harder to make it better than Anthony," says the longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The video's high-gloss production values are a reminder that Weiner is entering the crowded field with almost $5 million already in the bank. He raised that during a dozen years representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens in the House, where he had become a prominent rhetorical warrior on behalf of the Democratic leadership. He also made a serious run for mayor eight years ago, and until his social media self-immolation, he was considered the clear front-runner to succeed Michael Bloomberg this fall.
He will almost surely be able to supplement his own war chest with about $1 million in public funds, and all that money gives him a chance to leverage his universal name recognition for the better during the 16 weeks before the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
The opportunities and limits for Weiner were sketched out in results of a poll taken last week by Quinnipiac University and released today: It found him second in support, at 15 percent, behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, with 27 percent of primary voters undecided and a pair of prominent Democrats in single digits.
But nearly half of all registered voters polled, including 52 percent of women and 44 percent of Democrats, said the former congressman shouldn't run.
This race will go to the swift.