Second Chance: In A Stunning Shift, Anthony Weiner Moves To Frontrunner Status In NY Mayoral Race

"There's something about him... I have a feeling that if he wins it, knowing that this is his second chance, that he's going to do a good job." Image by Joe Marino  @NYDailyNews

“There’s something about him… I have a feeling that if he wins it, knowing that this is his second chance, that he’s going to do a good job.” Image by Joe Marino @NYDailyNews

New Yorkers are a forgiving bunch. They like their politicians smart, charismatic, pugnacious and effective. And, apparently, they’re not adverse to redemption. Think Eliot Spitzer, the former governor who resigned over a prostitution scandal but rose like a phoenix to become a sought-after political analyst, both on and off screen. It seems you can fall in New York just as you can in Arkansas (Bill Clinton), South Carolina (Mark Sanford), or Illinois (any and all of the Daly family), and still get back up… sometimes right to top. The most recent redemption story? Remarkably, Anthony Weiner. The man, best known for emailed “junk” shots that tumbled a reputation as well as a congressional career, has crawled from the ashes to not only get up, but to secure the frontrunner position in the New York mayoral race. Like I said, New Yorkers are forgiving.

Not that any sentient adult needs a primer on the “sexting” scandal that took Weiner down, but in a nutshell: the six-term Democratic U.S. Congressman from New York, known for being a champion of the people and a “politician to watch,” was outed for sending out strangely creepy phone snaps of his bare chest, his bulging groin, etc., along with flirtatious texts, to women he didn’t know but had connected to via social media. It was an embarrassing, soul-crushing mess for him and his wife, Huma Abedin, who was, in a true case of unfortunate timing, very pregnant as details were unfolding. Media was relentless; the late Andrew Breitbart made a name for himself in the freak-show circus atmosphere of it all, but he was by no means alone. Social media and, it seems, every news source on planet earth, went apoplectic covering the story until critical mass reached such heights it was clear the shamed congressman could not continue without dragging his party down with him. On June 16, 2011, Weiner resigned his seat in Congress.

What a difference two years makes!

After being appropriately and blessedly off the radar for the last 18 months, Weiner came out to test the waters recently by simply… showing his face. Seems like no big deal but after the insanity of the sexting event, it’s a wonder the man saved enough face to show one! But not only did he show his face, he showed his cards: on May 22nd, Weiner announced his decision to run for New York mayor. Clearly this a guy who knows his constituents well; like I said, they’re a forgiving bunch.

The chattering classes did what they do and there was a slew of noise along the lines of: “Are we ready to forgive and forget?” I suspect his most competitive opponent and consistent frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, thought it was going to be a slam-dunk, what with running against a seriously shamed ne’er-do-well. Turns out, Weiner might have had a better bead on the pulse of the city than she did. According to a Wall Street Journal-NBC New York-Marist poll, Weiner is not only flourishing in the race, he’s the frontrunner:

Among registered Democrats, Mr. Weiner had 25% of the vote, compared with Ms. Quinn, who had 20%, marking her lowest level of support since polling of the race began. Trailing them were former Comptroller Bill Thompson, at 13%, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 10% and city Comptroller John Liu, 8%. Fewer than one in five Democrats say they are undecided.

“Things are changing – the race has been scrambled by Weiner’s candidacy,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Weiner’s candidacy has gotten more acceptable to voters since he announced, (and) Quinn’s having a difficult time reversing what has been a slow but steady decline in her numbers.”

Mr. Weiner’s dramatic move to the front of the Democratic pack comes two years after he resigned from Congress amid a sexting scandal. He admitted he sent women sexually explicit photos via Twitter and then lied about it. Mr. Weiner has made asking New Yorkers to give him a second chance a central part of his campaign since he began flirting with a candidacy in April.

“Second chances” are part of the American DNA so perhaps this turn of events is not so surprising. Humility and a willingness to admit wrong both go a long way toward regaining lost support, and Weiner appears to have gotten that message.

“There’s something about him… I have a feeling that if he wins it, knowing that this is his second chance, that he’s going to do a good job,” said Osita Waohuocha, 54, a mental-health worker who lives in the Bronx. He said he likes that Ms. Abedin “stuck by him and he had the audacity to come out and say, ‘Listen, I made a mistake but if you can forgive me, this is who I am.’ ” [Source]

And New Yorkers got that message! But do prognosticators prognose that he can actually be the one succeeding Michael Bloomberg when the ballots are counted?

Still, the poll signals that the race remains wide open ahead of a Sept. 10 primary. Eighteen % of Democrats are still undecided about their choice, and 61% said they could change their minds. A candidate needs 40% of the primary vote to avoid a runoff, a threshold that appears unlikely at this point. [Source]

Clearly he’s got a bit of rock climbing left to do.

But there is something decent about forgiving a basically decent man; many New Yorkers are prepared to do just that for a guy they see as a flawed but very human being… and a true blue, born and bred New Yorker. Let’s see if that proves enough to pull the win by election time.