The Anthony Weiner political death-watch turned up a notch Tuesday, as the latest poll of the New York mayoral contest shows the former congressman has plummeted to fourth place in the Democratic primary field. And more than half of those surveyed – 53 percent – suggest he should drop out of the race.
Nevertheless, Mr. Weiner, whose sexting-young-women-while-married habits have catapulted the contest into a state of gross parody, has pledged to continue his campaign. His commitment to the race is the only such vow Weiner seems unwilling to break. He has violated the fundamentals of any good and honest marriage, not to mention abusing the public trust he won when voters in New York’s ninth congressional district sent him to Washington six times.
The ranks of those finding Weiner offensive seem to cross party lines, gender, ethnicity, and religion. And voters, who were told as he launched his campaign that this chapter of bad behavior was behind him, are having none of it.
The Quinnipiac survey shows City Council Speaker Christine Quinn leading the crowded field with 27 percent. She is trailed by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (21 percent) and former Comptroller William Thompson (20 percent). Weiner registers at just 16 percent. He was ahead of his rivals in June.
The primary is Sept. 10.
“With six weeks to go, anything can happen, but it looks like former Congressman Anthony Weiner may have sexted himself right out of the race for New York City mayor,” says Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “And with Weiner in free-fall, it begins to look like a three-way race again.”
Weiner’s fate seems sealed at this point (the good people who handle tech support at Gracie Mansion can breathe a bit easier). Redemption looks to be out of reach, obstinance and delusion are the orders of the day. The cable psychoanalyzing of this public figure is wearing thin, even on the talking heads themselves, who are looking to fill air time during the lazy summer months. (How long, by the way, before Weiner gets his own chat fest?)
What remains intriguing in this mess of indecency and indiscretion is whether the stink rubs off on his wife, Huma Abedin, who before doing her version of Tammy Wynette last week was one of the most respected and influential operatives in Democratic politics. Now folks are questioning her morals and motivations.
“She says she is standing by Weiner for her family and her child. Does she really think her son will benefit from looking back on his mother’s excruciating display of lack of self-respect?” writes journalist Sally Quinn in a Washington Post column headlined ‘Blaming Huma Abedin.’ “Does she believe that the fact that she is essentially condoning Weiner’s behavior sets a good example for her son? She clearly has no line Weiner can’t cross. He seems pretty sure he can keep getting away with it, and why shouldn’t he be?”
“The only possible reason I can guess for Abedin’s embrace of her husband is that she wants the power as much as he does,” says Quinn, herself no stranger to wanting, wielding, and keeping social influence in the capital city.
According to Politico, Abedin has been "helming a transition team that is moving toward setting up shop for a Hillary Clinton office within her husband’s foundation."
Clinton aides tell Politico Abedin's job is hers to keep regardless of the Weiner debacle.
But such professions of support nothwithstanding, some members of the chattering class are wondering if Abedin is jeopardizing her own professional future with a possible – probable? – Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign.
The long-time aide to Clinton, a calm and ubiquitous presence by Clinton’s side for years, was expected to be a key player in any 2016 effort. But now, is she too tarnished by her husband’s misdeeds and her own willingness to look the other way? Can the Clintons, who have worked long and hard to re-craft their joint public persona as one defined by devotion not infidelity, afford to be dragged, even tangentially, through another couple’s muck?
The Wall Street Journal ran a faux e-mail conversation between the two women in which Abedin seeks out Clinton’s counsel about work in the wake of scandal:
“You were masterful,” fake Clinton writes in the exchange of Abedin’s public statement last week supporting her husband’s bid. “Our phone's ringing off the hook with donors asking when Weiner's dropping out and Abedin's getting in.”
Phony Abedin; “My question now is how long is the long run. I wasn't thinking of running until 2017, but our story is bigger than the royal baby so I'm reconsidering.”
Clinton responds: “Huma for mayor? Or my old Senate seat? Selfishly I'd love to have you in the White House, but it will be your call.”
So how deep is Clinton’s affection for Abedin, and can it weather the younger aide’s personal storm? President Clinton officiated at the marriage of Weiner and Abedin, and the former secretary of State has called Abedin her second daughter. Will the Clintons look as hungry-at-all costs as Weiner if they abandon her, much as he has, for political purposes?
There’s no denying that the sordid episode must be miffing the grand dame of Democratic Party politics, as her own image control suffers along with her protégée. A former aide to the former president suggested on a Sunday political roundtable show that the Clintons would rather the story just “go away.”
But Weiner hasn’t gotten the memo.
“Let me make it very clear,” Weiner said Tuesday after a mayoral forum in Inwood. “I’ve got an enormous respect for the Clintons. They’ve been enormous friends to my wife and my family.”
It’s doubtful that respect is reciprocated. And the friendship with Abedin is facing a mammoth test.