WASHINGTON -- Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal damaged more than his political career -- it cost congressional Democrats weeks of momentum in their push to make Medicare and jobs the center of national debate.
Before the Weiner scandal broke, Democrats were riding high, coming off an unlikely special election win in western New York that centered on Medicare and put Democrat Kathy Hochul in a House seat long held by Republicans.
But then Weiner tweeted a lewd photo for all to see. Then he drew the scandal out by lying about it, then admitting it but refusing to resign.
The frustration in the Democratic Party was bubbling over by Thursday, when Weiner finally gave in. Nowhere was it more evident than at Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) weekly news conference which came just hours before Weiner's resignation announcement. Reporters were primed only for news about Weiner.
"Thank you for joining us once again for our regularly scheduled Thursday morning press availability," Pelosi said, sparking laughter from reporters who expected answers on Weiner, and thought she was joking.
"As usual, we're here to talk about jobs, about protecting Medicare and protecting the middle class," Pelosi said, and even warned the gathered media she would not take any Weiner questions.
The cable networks promptly cut away from Pelosi's jobs message. And the reporters on hand ignored her warning, making the first few questions -- and the final few -- about the forbidden Weiner.
"Perhaps I was unclear," Pelosi said, before being pressed again to talk about the congressman.
"No. I can't. I won't. I won't be doing that," she said, trying to turn back to her message.
"We will not be deterred from our quest for jobs, and I wish that the ardor for information on our jobs initiative would be as strong as it is on this other subject," she said.
For the past 20 days, the Weiner scandal and bad economic news have both stomped Democrats' attempts to keep hammering their issues.
"It was important from [Democrats'] perspective to get it over with," said the University of New Hampshire's Dante Scala, noting that even in the Granite State, Weiner’s foibles had become water cooler gossip.
But Scala and others said that while the scandal was a distraction, it would have had to continue deep into next year's election season to permanently derail the party.
"It's not going to take that long for Democrats to right the ship," Scala predicted. "Especially since the leadership has driven him out, now they can get back to what the were doing."
Chris Lehane, a California based Democratic strategist, was even more emphatic.
"By the time we get to 2012, when you say 'Anthony Weiner' people will more likely think you are talking about Marc Anthony eating a Fenway Frank than anything that has happened over the last several weeks," Lehane said. "The issue in 2012 will be whether people in places like Ohio and Florida are gaining jobs -- and not Weiner losing his job."
There is the possibility that more details could surface, but with Weiner out of Congress, they won't matter, the analysts predicted.
"Who knows if there will be more revelations in this, but then it becomes a local story," Scala said. "I can see the New York Post running some photos, but it won't be a national issue."
"I think people were upset about it, but now that it's gone, there are more important things for people to be concerned with," he added. "Now people feel like it's something between him and his wife."
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