Make all the jokes you want. The next mayor of New York City will be Anthony Weiner. The current crop of mayoral candidates is so mediocre that, until Weiner's entry last week, Election Day was on its way to attracting one of the lowest voter turnouts in history. With the exception of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Comptroller John Liu, who are often in the news for the wrong reasons, and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, whom voters vaguely remember from his lackluster campaign against Mike Bloomberg in the last mayoral race, the present, motley crew of mayoral hopefuls produces so completely an uninspiring presence, that few voters are bothering to look them up or feel any urgency to get to know them better.
Until Weiner exposed himself to a new barrage of old toilet humor from the New York Post, voters were grudgingly ready to vote for Quinn, with a Quinnipiac Poll giving her 37% of the votes in February. However, her support of Michael Bloomberg's suspension of term limits in 2008 has proven an albatross around her neck, as if it's all her fault that the city is now suffering through many of Bloomberg's unpopular policies. Bloomberg's continuing resistance to giving her his unequivocal support is also not helping much.
But now she, like all the other candidates, is quickly finding herself dismissed from the front page of the newspaper by a man who has circled City Hall for many years, and who this time around is fiercely determined to come in for a landing as the next mayor of New York.
The Weiner Circle
Last week, in a sign of things to come, a Daily News article noted that Weiner "has been receiving far more support than criticism on the campaign trail," with cries such as "Welcome back! We need you!" Meanwhile, a new Marist Poll released Tuesday already shows him leaping over the field of hopefuls, coming in second with 19% of the voters polled to Christine Quinn's 24%. The poll notes that he is already the top choice for mayor among Democratic men, his support rising from 18% last month to 23% last week.
A BuzzFeed article, in covering his appearance at the Laurelton Memorial Day parade in Queens, observed, "Although John Liu and Bill Thompson... are scheduled to march...as are a handful of other officials...that's not why television satellite trucks stand vigil down the block. Anthony Weiner is coming."
Anthony Weiner also proved that he was the only news fit to print at his first official public debate, organized by the New Yorkers for Greater Public Schools and held at New York University on Tuesday. The New York Times' coverage of the event focused completely on his responses to the moderator's questions. It also noted, "When he entered the room, a throng of reporters and television cameramen mobbed him, and the minute the debate ended, the mob descended again...." References to other candidates present at the debate seemed more of a formality. Quinn was again in the news for the wrong reason, with the article noting that she "pulled out of the debate at the last minute, prompting denunciations from the organizers."
You May Already Be a Weiner
In his first mayoral debate at New York University, Anthony Weiner came out fighting, taking on Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, and audiences liked what they heard. As well, in an age of political correctness, few politicians can risk directly attacking Weiner on his sexting scandal. Some, like John Liu, have their own dirty laundry to hide, as has Christine Quinn, and it behooves them to tempt the scandal-hungry media to point out their hypocrisy. Weiner himself is determined - if he goes down - to go down fighting, and won't hesitate to throw it back in their faces. Meanwhile, Mario Cuomo has already backed off his criticism of Weiner, calling "a joke" his remark that, if Anthony Weiner should win the election, it would be "Shame on us."
Undoubtedly, much of Weiner's initial attention is due to the curiosity of his return, following the national scandal that cost him his job in Congress and made him the punch-line of the late-night talk show circuit. When the curiosity dies down, however, the mayoral debates will follow. As he proved in his first debate - and countless times on the house floor - he is a smart, articulate and fiery speaker who is likely to win most, if not all of the debates.
Ironically, Michael Bloomberg may have actually given Weiner a stronger endorsement than he has Christine Quinn when, in response to a question early in the month on the possibility of Weiner running for mayor, he lectured the press on its obsession with his past misdeeds, calling them "irrelevant," and challenging the press to focus "on his views" instead.
And the view, from where Weiner stands today, is a very nice one, indeed.