Commentary Magazine


Topic: New York mayoral race

Minding the (Gender) Gap in New York City

Of the several New York Democratic mayoral candidates who lost this week’s primary to Bill de Blasio, only one constituted something of a surprise: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. It’s not that Quinn was ever considered a shoo-in–far from it. But she had media buzz building for quite some time, a consistent early lead in the polls, and the tentative support of Michael Bloomberg (which probably cost her votes in the end, but gave her candidacy an early boost).

Unlike Anthony Weiner, Quinn didn’t seem to have any skeletons refusing to stay in the closet. Unlike Bill Thompson, Quinn was able to poll a lead when matched up against the entire field of candidates, while Thompson needed a second-round run-off to build a lead. And it must be said that her current speakership and the media attention she received for being openly gay (she married her partner last year) gave her at least a head start on both the late entries and the no-names. Yet she placed third. What happened?

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Of the several New York Democratic mayoral candidates who lost this week’s primary to Bill de Blasio, only one constituted something of a surprise: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. It’s not that Quinn was ever considered a shoo-in–far from it. But she had media buzz building for quite some time, a consistent early lead in the polls, and the tentative support of Michael Bloomberg (which probably cost her votes in the end, but gave her candidacy an early boost).

Unlike Anthony Weiner, Quinn didn’t seem to have any skeletons refusing to stay in the closet. Unlike Bill Thompson, Quinn was able to poll a lead when matched up against the entire field of candidates, while Thompson needed a second-round run-off to build a lead. And it must be said that her current speakership and the media attention she received for being openly gay (she married her partner last year) gave her at least a head start on both the late entries and the no-names. Yet she placed third. What happened?

A lot of things. But one thing that does not seem to have played a significant role is her gender. That’s one takeaway from today’s New York Times story, “In Quinn’s Loss, Questions About Role of Gender and Sexuality.” But the article seems to answer those questions pretty effectively:

Exit polls showed no gender gap in the results and indicated that Ms. Quinn lost for a number of reasons — her close association with the plutocratic incumbent mayor, her rivals’ ability to outmaneuver her on the issue of stop-and-frisk policing, and her inability to be a change candidate in an election in which voters sought new direction.

Still, her supporters wonder: Why has New York, home of tough, talented women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Anna Wintour, proven resistant to female candidates? And was it simply too much to expect the electorate to embrace a candidate who would be not just New York’s first female mayor, but its first openly gay one, too?

In interviews with allies and opponents, as well as members of the Quinn campaign team, not one person blamed her loss wholly, or even mostly, on gender.

Exit polls showed no gender gap, and neither her supporters (including those who worked for her) nor her opponents thought it made much difference, if at all. But you get the feeling that this article gets written one way or the other. Had there been a “gender gap” in the exit polls, we’d be reading an article about how the fact that Quinn is a woman worked against her in the race. Now that there wasn’t a gender gap, the Times is concerned: why not? That is, why didn’t New York’s women show some solidarity?

The Times has no trouble finding sources who will blame that on Quinn, but the criticism of her in the article is so gobsmackingly unfair as to leave the reader wondering why anyone would put their names to the comments. One explanation is one that is backed up by the exit polls: Quinn–admirably, I might add–insisted on running a campaign on the issues instead of gender identity. “I don’t get up in the morning thinking about how I’ll approach this as a woman or a lesbian; I think about the issues,” she apparently told a room full of accomplished women who wanted to tell Quinn how to run a campaign as a woman.

Identity politics did work against her, though, in two ways. First, New York City identity politics are ethnic and racial. As the Times story notes, there was neither a gay vote nor a women’s vote. Without such a voter base, it was to Quinn’s disadvantage that she represented swanky neighborhoods in Manhattan and was thus somewhat detached from the lives of so many of the New Yorkers whose votes she wanted.

Second, some of those Manhattanites turned on her. And here is where her gender made a difference. From the story:

Critiques of Ms. Quinn’s physical attributes came from many corners, even the wealthy Upper East Side women who helped raise money for her mayoral bid. “Why can’t she dress better?’” they would ask Rachel Lavine, a Democratic state committeewoman who was on Ms. Quinn’s finance committee.

“I might think that St. John is not the end all and be all of fashion,” Ms. Lavine said, referring to the upscale clothing line favored by wealthy, older women. “But that’s what they’re saying. ‘Why isn’t she wearing a size two St. John’s dress?’ There’s that kind of constant commentary.”

Referring to Ms. Quinn’s rival Bill de Blasio, she said, “You don’t hear that about de Blasio — ‘Why can’t he buy better-looking suits?’ ”

Her female supporters badmouthed her because they didn’t like the brand of clothing she wore. It’s to Quinn’s credit that she showed no interest in playing these games, either by trying to disqualify criticism of her as simple prejudice or by changing her appearance. She lost, but she lost honorably–against the advice of many of her supporters.

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Could a de Blasio Win Give GOP a Boost?

After months of buildup, the citizens of New York City will finally be heading to the polls tomorrow. The buzz surrounding the race for mayor has consistently made national news. Unfortunately for the future of New York, however, that buzz has centered largely on the scandal-plagued candidacy of Democrat Anthony Weiner. While all eyes are on the Democrats facing off tomorrow, with a come-from-behind Bill de Blasio campaign taking center stage, the Republicans in the race, John Catsimatidis and Joe Lhota, have largely escaped the media’s glare. Many view tomorrow’s primary as the conclusion of the race with tomorrow’s winner the automatic general-election victor. Past electoral history, including the relatively recent victories of Republican Rudy Giuliani and independent Mike Bloomberg serve as warnings that in New York City “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

While there is very little reliable polling to be had for the Republican primary taking place tomorrow, the limited data available seems to indicate a Lhota victory over the billionaire businessman Catsimatidis. Presuming de Blasio and Lhota win tomorrow, in the general election all is not lost for the Republican contender.

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After months of buildup, the citizens of New York City will finally be heading to the polls tomorrow. The buzz surrounding the race for mayor has consistently made national news. Unfortunately for the future of New York, however, that buzz has centered largely on the scandal-plagued candidacy of Democrat Anthony Weiner. While all eyes are on the Democrats facing off tomorrow, with a come-from-behind Bill de Blasio campaign taking center stage, the Republicans in the race, John Catsimatidis and Joe Lhota, have largely escaped the media’s glare. Many view tomorrow’s primary as the conclusion of the race with tomorrow’s winner the automatic general-election victor. Past electoral history, including the relatively recent victories of Republican Rudy Giuliani and independent Mike Bloomberg serve as warnings that in New York City “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

While there is very little reliable polling to be had for the Republican primary taking place tomorrow, the limited data available seems to indicate a Lhota victory over the billionaire businessman Catsimatidis. Presuming de Blasio and Lhota win tomorrow, in the general election all is not lost for the Republican contender.

As recently as the end of July the presumed Bloomberg successor Christine Quinn was leading the polls after Anthony Weiner’s implosion after new details emerged of the sexting scandal that brought down his career in the House. Democratic primary voters have had very little time to get to know each candidate as they somewhat schizophrenically wavered between the half-dozen possible contenders. What might sound appealing to more left-wing primary voters, taxing the rich and an end to the controversial but effective stop-and-frisk program of the NYPD, would likely go over less well with more moderate and pragmatic New Yorkers, especially middle-class voters in the outer boroughs.

These voters will likely not see the allure in targeting the rich, the famed 1 percent they heard about for months from the largely white and privileged youth who took over a public square in Lower Manhattan last year, calling themselves Occupy Wall Street. These voters have watched as the policies of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, including stop-and-frisk, lowered the city’s crime rate considerably over his tenure. Democrat de Blasio has promised to remove this popular and effective police commissioner from office, a move that wouldn’t be taken kindly by those who have benefited from his work. 

It’s too soon for any general-election polling between de Blasio and Lhota, but the Observer’s Politicker blog has already taken note of Lhota’s potential cross-party appeal:

A surprising number of this morning’s attendees said they, too, were planning to cross party lines for Mr. Lhota because they considered this year’s crop of Democratic candidates–especially front-runner Bill de Blasio–too liberal, soft on crime or polarizing.

Susan B., 61, who lives in the West Village and declined to give her last name, said she’d grown “increasingly uncomfortable” with city Democrats over attempts to rein in the controversial stop-and-frisk police tactic and attempts to halt surveillance of Muslim communities.

According to unnamed sources speaking with the New York Posteven independent and relatively liberal current Mayor Michael Bloomberg may also be leaning toward supporting the Republican Lhota if de Blasio is tomorrow’s Democratic victor. While his endorsement may not carry much weight with voters, it serves as an interesting window into the thought processes of New Yorkers who, while overwhelmingly liberal, also don’t want to see a return to the days of former New York Mayor David Dinkins. Though any Republican optimism in deep blue New York may seem delusional, this match-up might make the next two months a bit more interesting than if a more moderate Democrat were nominated.

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The Dinkins Democrats

The competition for the Democratic nomination in New York’s mayoral race bears a surprising resemblance to the Republican presidential contest in 2012. There is the experienced but uninspiring frontrunner struggling to establish their ideological bona fides. There is the geographically underserved but critical base of voters putting up candidates who quickly falter. There is the somewhat lackluster group of candidates, with more high-profile personalities being implored to join the race to no avail.

And now there is the anybody-but-the-frontrunner theme that results in transitory poll boosts for underestimated candidates. After disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner jumped into the race, he quickly eliminated most of Christine Quinn’s putative lead in the polls, even becoming the technical “frontrunner” himself on occasion. But it turned out his sordid personal history wasn’t exactly history, and he has since faded in the polls. This has always helped not just Quinn but also Bill Thompson, since the race may very well go to a run-off where Thompson, a former comptroller and recent mayoral candidate, has a distinct advantage.

The polls showed Thompson winning in a run-off even with Weiner in the race. But Weiner’s drop in the polls has created room for another candidate bubble, and Quinnipiac says the new leader is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

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The competition for the Democratic nomination in New York’s mayoral race bears a surprising resemblance to the Republican presidential contest in 2012. There is the experienced but uninspiring frontrunner struggling to establish their ideological bona fides. There is the geographically underserved but critical base of voters putting up candidates who quickly falter. There is the somewhat lackluster group of candidates, with more high-profile personalities being implored to join the race to no avail.

And now there is the anybody-but-the-frontrunner theme that results in transitory poll boosts for underestimated candidates. After disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner jumped into the race, he quickly eliminated most of Christine Quinn’s putative lead in the polls, even becoming the technical “frontrunner” himself on occasion. But it turned out his sordid personal history wasn’t exactly history, and he has since faded in the polls. This has always helped not just Quinn but also Bill Thompson, since the race may very well go to a run-off where Thompson, a former comptroller and recent mayoral candidate, has a distinct advantage.

The polls showed Thompson winning in a run-off even with Weiner in the race. But Weiner’s drop in the polls has created room for another candidate bubble, and Quinnipiac says the new leader is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

With strong support from white Democratic likely primary voters and voters critical of the so-called stop-and-frisk police tactic, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio leads the Democratic race for New York City mayor with 30 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

With four weeks to go, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has 24 percent, with 22 percent for former Comptroller William Thompson, 10 percent for former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, 6 percent for Comptroller John Liu, 1 percent for former Council member Sal Albanese and 7 percent undecided, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

The mayoral race is devoid of candidates with high name recognition (except of course for Weiner, whose high name ID isn’t doing him any favors), so the fluctuating polls may be registering the voting public’s discovery and consideration, rather than approval, of the individual candidates. Additionally, though de Blasio will be understandably cheered to see his name in lights, the votes could not have come from a worse place, strategically, for him.

The poll essentially reapportioned Weiner’s support after he reminded voters why he is not currently serving in elected office. That reapportionment happened just as de Blasio was introducing himself to the voters. But if Weiner is truly washing out of contention, de Blasio’s first-place ranking may be just as temporary as the leads of those he displaced. That’s because of the reason for his sudden support as speculated by Quinnipiac:

Stop-and-frisk is excessive and harasses innocent people, 60 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say, while 31 percent say it is an acceptable way to make the city safer. Among those critical of stop-and-frisk, 34 percent back de Blasio, with 24 percent for Thompson and 22 percent for Quinn.

Democratic likely voters support 66 – 25 percent the creation of an inspector general to independently monitor the New York Police Department.

De Blasio does best among those who want to get rid of the police tactic that has been so effective against crime. Most Democratic candidates have shifted to the left on this issue, but Weiner has not shifted as far. That has thus far anchored the rest of the Democratic candidates in place, since they would have to try to compete for pro-NYPD votes in the primary. If Weiner is not going to be competitive, and Democratic opinion is moving away from support for the police, there is nothing to stop Quinn or Thompson from moving further to their left if that’s what it takes to outflank de Blasio. If de Blasio loses this issue, he probably loses his lead.

The real lesson, then, of the Democratic primary contest is that no one is running as the responsible, law and order candidate. De Blasio’s lead is tenuous because there is nothing substantive to differentiate him from the others, and both Thompson and Quinn have either reliable voting bases or more money than de Blasio. There is an opening for a Democratic candidate to run as somewhat tough on crime, but none of the candidates has any desire to do so.

That means there’s an opening for such a candidate on the GOP side, and both Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis will try to run as the “Giuliani” candidate with warnings about the Democrats taking the city back to its Dinkins-era dystopia. But neither Lhota nor Catsimatidis has Giuliani’s credibility on crime issues. And it’s important to remember that Giuliani lost to Dinkins his first time running, and only (narrowly) defeated Dinkins after what was a truly disastrous, riot-plagued term in office.

The Dinkins era was twenty years ago. It’s a blessing that New Yorkers could forget what it was like. It is alarming that a new crop of Democrats threatens to remind them.

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Women Fed Up With Weiner–And His Wife

It’s not often that one finds the opinion on a politician echoed in the pages of the New York Times and the New York Post on the same day. Politicians like Anthony Weiner don’t come around every day, however–something voters should count as a blessing. Female political analysts and amateurs alike have had strong and remarkably similar responses to the performance given by Huma Abedin at her husband’s press conference Wednesday, convened to respond to new reports of online extramarital contact with young women.

While initially quite sympathetic to Abedin when the allegations first arose last year, the tide of public opinion has taken a sharp turn this time around. What changed? In yesterday’s New York Post Karol Markowicz explains:

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It’s not often that one finds the opinion on a politician echoed in the pages of the New York Times and the New York Post on the same day. Politicians like Anthony Weiner don’t come around every day, however–something voters should count as a blessing. Female political analysts and amateurs alike have had strong and remarkably similar responses to the performance given by Huma Abedin at her husband’s press conference Wednesday, convened to respond to new reports of online extramarital contact with young women.

While initially quite sympathetic to Abedin when the allegations first arose last year, the tide of public opinion has taken a sharp turn this time around. What changed? In yesterday’s New York Post Karol Markowicz explains:

What makes Huma Abedin different isn’t that she stood by her man, while pregnant, as he publicly disgraced their marriage, and lied about it repeatedly while blaming the same “vast right-wing conspiracy” as Hillary.

No, Abedin took it a step further. She didn’t want him to resign, according to what Anthony Weiner later told The New York Times — plus, she encouraged him to jump into the mayoral race.

Mind you, from what the couple now tells us, she knew when she was pushing him to run that he’d kept up the sexting for months and months after he left Congress.

And, as the two were plotting his political comeback, Abedin posed for soft-focus People Magazine photos painting the picture of a happy family that had moved on from Weiner’s indiscretions.

Moved on? Shortly after their publication, he sent new pictures of his privates to new women.

On Tuesday, Weiner was telling everyone that he told Abedin everything. Was he lying again, or has she known all along? If she has, then when she told People, “Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be,” she was lying.

And if she wasn’t lying then, she’s lying now, because she’s backing his claim that he told her everything.

During her prepared speech Abedin remarked, “I do very strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage.” Awkward phrasing aside, Abedin couldn’t be more wrong. A new poll from NBC 4 New York, the Wall Street Journal, and Marist showed that the lead that Weiner once enjoyed in the race has disappeared, with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn now garnering 25 percent of the support of the city’s Democrats compared to 16 percent for Weiner. Last month the same poll showed Weiner leading Quinn by five percent.

While some, like Gloria Steinem in the Times, expressed apprehension commenting on the wife of a political candidate, many other women view Abedin as an active participant in Weiner’s continued manipulation of New York voters. By vouching for his rehabilitation time and again, Abedin, a political heavyweight in her own right, risks the destruction of her reputation alongside her husband. That reputation isn’t just built on Abedin’s political role as Hillary Clinton’s advisor, but also as a wife and mother. It is that latter image that’s taking a beating today. Lisa Bloom, an opinion columnist for CNN, explained why Abedin’s behavior was so reprehensible from one woman to another:

Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, was reduced to the standing-by-her-man-at-the-news-conference archetype, a dated wife-as-doormat visual it’s time to eliminate from our political theater.

Sure, she can keep him around if she wants to. But we don’t have to bless their craven political move to stand together before the cameras to protect his career, nor do we have to play along as they both pretend that this is something other than more public degradation of her. That they are both consenting adults who participate in this behavior does not make it acceptable to the rest of us. (Simple test: Would you want your daughter in that tableau?)

By continuing to stand by her husband, and asking voters to do the same, Abedin has lost any goodwill and sympathy she might once have garnered as the jilted pregnant wife. The saying goes “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” New Yorkers don’t appreciate being made fools of. While they may not care about the extramarital affairs Weiner conducts while his wife seemingly looks the other way, they don’t appreciate being lied to or manipulated. For their own sake and for the City of New York, it’s time for the Weiners to drop the redemption act and move on from the mayoral race.

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Bloomberg’s Potentially Deadly Legacy

Yesterday a local newspaper reported:

Part of the city’s problem-plagued 911 system failed so many times yesterday that [Fire Department] dispatchers were forced to revert to using pen and paper to jot down calls, while patrol cops were enlisted to take victims to hospitals.

Problems were so rife that by afternoon, cops were told to call their department’s own Emergency Service Unit for help, sources said. Otherwise, they were to transport victims to hospitals in their radio cars.

Sounds like an item from a disaster, a terrorist attack or perhaps, sadly, Detroit. That system-wide shutdown of emergency services took place in New York City just this week, the New York Post reported. The issues with the 9-1-1 system and emergency responsiveness have been heavily reported by the Post in the last several weeks, especially after an incident during last week’s heat wave involving a mayoral candidate and several members of the media. With cameras rolling, an intern at an event for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn collapsed in the heat. After waiting for over thirty minutes for an ambulance to arrive, Quinn decided to call in the big guns: not Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but instead Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

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Yesterday a local newspaper reported:

Part of the city’s problem-plagued 911 system failed so many times yesterday that [Fire Department] dispatchers were forced to revert to using pen and paper to jot down calls, while patrol cops were enlisted to take victims to hospitals.

Problems were so rife that by afternoon, cops were told to call their department’s own Emergency Service Unit for help, sources said. Otherwise, they were to transport victims to hospitals in their radio cars.

Sounds like an item from a disaster, a terrorist attack or perhaps, sadly, Detroit. That system-wide shutdown of emergency services took place in New York City just this week, the New York Post reported. The issues with the 9-1-1 system and emergency responsiveness have been heavily reported by the Post in the last several weeks, especially after an incident during last week’s heat wave involving a mayoral candidate and several members of the media. With cameras rolling, an intern at an event for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn collapsed in the heat. After waiting for over thirty minutes for an ambulance to arrive, Quinn decided to call in the big guns: not Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but instead Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Quinn’s staff made a second call while waiting, to a Jewish volunteer ambulance service called Hatzolah. Despite receiving the call after 9-1-1 dispatchers and despite 96-degree temperatures on the fast day of Tisha B’Av (Hatzolah’s Orthodox volunteers had been fasting, without food or water, since 8 p.m. the night before), Hatzolah arrived first, treating and whisking the intern away before the city’s ambulance arrived. The FDNY blamed the delay on a shortage of ambulances, a spike in call volume, and the low priority given to the intern, who had been reported as conscious and responsive by the individual who placed the initial 9-1-1 call. An anonymous individual affiliated with the ambulance corps, the EMS, had another story:

A move to modernize city ambulance records has become a technical nightmare for city EMTs, who told The Post the system is leading to delays and slower response times.

The new tablet-computer-based system for recording ambulance calls has been hampered because the devices often freeze up and can’t send information when a Wi-Fi signal is unavailable, sources said.

“It’s a very weak wireless system, but the city got what they paid for,” groused one technician. “They were too cheap to pay for a stronger system.”

Instead of recording vital information about each “aided” case on paper, EMS technicians are required to enter data on the tablet. A wireless router is attached to the EMS truck and provides the Wi-Fi signal.

But when a signal can’t be found, or is weak, the ambulance crews struggle to submit the data, which is mandatory before heading off for new emergency calls.

The system, a $2 billion boondoggle, was well known for its limitations before its implementation in May. In March the Post was given a confidential report on those limitations:

Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial $2 billion effort to modernize the 911 system — billed as a cure-all for every emergency-communications ill — was labeled a boondoggle by the city’s own experts two years ago, The Post has learned.

The project “does not have a defined business case” for spending $2 billion on a new 911 system, Gartner Consulting told City Hall in a March 2011 report marked “draft — confidential.”

The consultant’s 45-page report, reviewed by The Post, explained the city was wasting its money by plowing ahead without resolving key problems. It slams the high-tech system for management failures and computer glitches, and clobbers key communications officials for refusing to cooperate and, instead, battling over turf.

The consultants report also found:

* Repeated failures of the emergency-response software were reported but were not fixed.

* The NYPD refused to merge its system for dispatching units with that of the FDNY and the EMS — although that was a key reason for creating the new system. And the departments would not work together to create a unified management structure for the new system.

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaving office in January after an election to replace him in November, a lot of attention has been paid to the transgressions of certain candidates eyeing his job. Being mayor of New York City isn’t a job for the weakhearted, as anyone who watched former Mayor Giuliani in the days and weeks following September 11, 2001 can attest. His replacement, Bloomberg, has the utter failure of a relaunch of the 9-1-1 system on his record, and any deaths or injuries that result are the sole responsibility of the man who, despite countless warnings from consultants that he himself hired, insisted on launching a program that the city couldn’t afford and that didn’t fit its needs.

The amount of times that the system has shut down since its launch in May when there were no major events precipitating the failures should strike fear into hearts of New Yorkers who are not unaccustomed to being the site of disasters both natural and man-made in the last decade and a half. With the mayoral election fast approaching, New Yorkers should be holding candidates’ feet to the fire on the condition of the emergency services and their ability to respond to personal emergencies as well as major catastrophes. This is an issue that affects each and every New York City resident, and if Bloomberg’s failure is allowed to stand as it is, he or his replacement will soon have to answer for an incident far more embarrassing and potentially disastrous than an overheated intern passed out in the midday Brooklyn sun. 

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Weiner’s Strategy Already Paying Dividends

The latest poll of the New York mayoral race is awakening the public to what many seem to find a horrifying prospect: Anthony Weiner can win. Weiner has, the report alerts us, gone “in just a few weeks from disgraced has-been to mayoral front-runner.” In truth, this may trade underestimating the former congressman’s chances for overestimating them in one breath. There were always certain elements of the race that promised to make it competitive, even if Weiner was an underdog.

But aside from Weiner’s campaign war chest, they cut both ways. For example, he had full name recognition early in the race. But that name recognition also meant there wasn’t much room for him to get a fresh start in the minds of voters. He also hails from the boroughs, having represented Queens and Brooklyn, and thus he has an advantage over Manhattan’s Christine Quinn with regard to New York’s famously important identity politics. At the same time, since the sex scandal that drove him from office painted him as a bit of a cad, it’s not clear voters actually want to identify themselves with Weiner (and perhaps it’s even more troubling if they do).

All is not lost for Quinn–far from it. Indeed, while the NBC report calls Weiner the frontrunner, he would actually still lose the Democratic primary under conditions that mimicked the poll results. NBC explains:

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The latest poll of the New York mayoral race is awakening the public to what many seem to find a horrifying prospect: Anthony Weiner can win. Weiner has, the report alerts us, gone “in just a few weeks from disgraced has-been to mayoral front-runner.” In truth, this may trade underestimating the former congressman’s chances for overestimating them in one breath. There were always certain elements of the race that promised to make it competitive, even if Weiner was an underdog.

But aside from Weiner’s campaign war chest, they cut both ways. For example, he had full name recognition early in the race. But that name recognition also meant there wasn’t much room for him to get a fresh start in the minds of voters. He also hails from the boroughs, having represented Queens and Brooklyn, and thus he has an advantage over Manhattan’s Christine Quinn with regard to New York’s famously important identity politics. At the same time, since the sex scandal that drove him from office painted him as a bit of a cad, it’s not clear voters actually want to identify themselves with Weiner (and perhaps it’s even more troubling if they do).

All is not lost for Quinn–far from it. Indeed, while the NBC report calls Weiner the frontrunner, he would actually still lose the Democratic primary under conditions that mimicked the poll results. NBC explains:

Weiner, who entered the race two years after resigning his congressional seat amid a sexting scandal, now leads City Council Speaker Christine Quinn 25 percent to 20 percent among registered Democrats, the poll by Marist found. That’s a flip-flop from the last survey in May, when Quinn, the longtime front-runner, led Weiner 24 percent to 19 percent.

And a runoff in the Democratic contest seems increasingly likely — no candidate appears close to capturing the 40 percent needed on Sept. 10, which would force a second contest between the top two finishers.

The poll shows that, in those scenarios, Weiner does not lead, but has gained a great deal of ground since the previous survey. In a runoff between Quinn and Weiner, she beats him 44 percent to 42 percent, with 14 percent undecided. That’s a change from last month’s poll that found 48 percent for Quinn, 33 percent for Weiner and 18 percent undecided.

According to the poll, former comptroller and previous Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson would also edge Weiner in a run-off round. The important part of the story, for Weiner, is the direction of the numbers. Not only are his current poll numbers better than they were, but the number of New York voters who said they wouldn’t consider voting for him has dropped from 52 percent to 45 percent. That means his name recognition isn’t stopping him from changing minds and the sexting scandal isn’t a dealbreaker for most voters.

However, as I wrote yesterday, the scandal may not be completely in the past since Weiner has admitted there are still incriminating photographs of him that could surface. Voters may be willing to forgive Weiner for past indiscretions, but they will not look kindly on the possibility that those headlines will return and dominate the news cycle not only for the fall election but also throughout a theoretical first mayoral term. He’s far from in the clear.

So what will Weiner do to shore up his lead? He received a bit of good luck this week when Quinn, who is currently speaker of the City Council, approved a law that would hamper the New York Police Department’s ability to identify suspects. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD’s tactics have been the subject of some astoundingly ignorant reporting and malicious misinformation, which may obscure their sky-high approval ratings. One such poll, released in January, found Kelly’s approval to be well above water across ethnic and racial lines; black voters gave him his worst showing at 63 percent approval. (His overall approval/disapproval was 75/18.)

As I’ve explained in the past, New Yorkers may be liberal by and large, but even liberals like safe neighborhoods. Before Anthony Weiner declared his candidacy, Quinn may have been able to claim to be the rightward edge of the Democratic field of candidates with regard to the NYPD, but she is still too far left on the issue for many voters. In March, for example, she threw her support behind the establishment of an inspector general for the NYPD.

Weiner didn’t. And when he spoke this month at a gathering hosted by Al Sharpton, Weiner only said the city’s successful stop and frisk policy should not be used “as a racial tool.” He didn’t say that it was being used that way, and would get no more specific about his own police policy except to say that he, too, wouldn’t be “using stop-and-frisk as a racial tool” if elected mayor.

Weiner shouldn’t yet be considered the true frontrunner. But Quinn is running her campaign as if Weiner is not in the race, and the latest poll is an early verdict on that strategy.

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Could Weiner Win on Education? Maybe if He Tried.

With the introduction of Anthony Weiner into the New York City mayoral race, things in the Big Apple have definitely become more interesting (and that’s not just in the form of suggestive New York Post headlines). As Jonathan mentioned last week, the race for Gracie Mansion, as far as Weiner is concerned, is dependent upon the middle class. With that in mind, Weiner came out swinging (albeit wildly) at his debate debut on an issue on the minds of many middle-class voters in New York: education.

The New York Daily News reported on Weiner’s controversy-sparking comments on education, which were directly addressed to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Weiner and Cuomo had a public spat last week when it was widely reported that Cuomo told the editorial board of the the Post-Standard and Syracuse Media Group “Shame on us” if Weiner is elected mayor. By couching his comments on education within the spat with Cuomo, Weiner guaranteed that his comments would make the papers. 

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With the introduction of Anthony Weiner into the New York City mayoral race, things in the Big Apple have definitely become more interesting (and that’s not just in the form of suggestive New York Post headlines). As Jonathan mentioned last week, the race for Gracie Mansion, as far as Weiner is concerned, is dependent upon the middle class. With that in mind, Weiner came out swinging (albeit wildly) at his debate debut on an issue on the minds of many middle-class voters in New York: education.

The New York Daily News reported on Weiner’s controversy-sparking comments on education, which were directly addressed to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Weiner and Cuomo had a public spat last week when it was widely reported that Cuomo told the editorial board of the the Post-Standard and Syracuse Media Group “Shame on us” if Weiner is elected mayor. By couching his comments on education within the spat with Cuomo, Weiner guaranteed that his comments would make the papers. 

During the debate Weiner took what would be considered a somewhat conservative approach to education by promising to take on local teachers’ unions in order to reward top performing teachers. Weiner blasted high-stakes testing originating in Albany but did not join his fellow Democratic candidates in criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s focus on the expansion of charter schools. Many of these education stances have support from middle-class parents who are increasingly overwhelmed by struggling schools and admissions processes that rival that of most Ivy League universities. Recently, the city’s parents have become obsessed by two scandals involving testing for students wishing to enter the coveted gifted and talented program. Access to quality and affordable education is an important issue to parents and students across the country, but for those in New York City, it is one fraught with an incredible amount of confusion, anxiety and cost.

If Weiner had come off during the debate as well-informed and passionate about the issue, it could have been a game changing debate for his young and highly mocked campaign. However, according to the New York Times roundup of the debate, Weiner came off incredibly flippant and ill-informed on a crucial issue to a constituency his campaign has hinged its success on. Late in the debate, the candidates were all asked about an influential founder of a charter-school network in the city and whether she received special treatment from city hall, as her detractors allege, and Weiner didn’t seem to have any idea who she was. There are few issues more important to middle-class voters in New York City right now than education. Weiner’s disregard for voters and their concerns doesn’t bode well for his chances. 

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Note to Weiner: NYC Isn’t South Carolina

As Seth notes, Anthony Weiner’s hopes for a comeback got a major boost from a sympathetic profile in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that was made available online this morning. There is plenty of material in the piece that should make readers squirm as the hopelessly adrift Weiner tries to worm his way back into the good graces of the public by talking about how he has made amends with his wife Huma Abedin after his astonishing sexting scandal. Yet Weiner is calculating that the creation of what he calls a “second narrative” via his friends in the liberal press can not only begin his rehabilitation but actually him elect him mayor of New York City this year. With millions in his campaign war chest and a weak field, Seth’s optimistic evaluation of his chances seems reasonable. After all, if former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford can be on his way back to Congress after a scandal that involved actual, rather than virtual, infidelity, then why can’t Weiner do as well with the presumably far less moralistic electorate of the Big Apple?

It’s true that, as the Times feature shows, Weiner can count on the sympathy of the mainstream media, has a huge campaign war chest and the current frontrunner for mayor—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—is a relatively weak candidate who can’t count on much support outside of Manhattan. But Weiner may be miscalculating if he thinks he can pull off the same trick as Sanford. New Yorkers may not be as prudish as the rest of the country about sex, but I think they are far less likely to buy into a redemption campaign.

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As Seth notes, Anthony Weiner’s hopes for a comeback got a major boost from a sympathetic profile in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that was made available online this morning. There is plenty of material in the piece that should make readers squirm as the hopelessly adrift Weiner tries to worm his way back into the good graces of the public by talking about how he has made amends with his wife Huma Abedin after his astonishing sexting scandal. Yet Weiner is calculating that the creation of what he calls a “second narrative” via his friends in the liberal press can not only begin his rehabilitation but actually him elect him mayor of New York City this year. With millions in his campaign war chest and a weak field, Seth’s optimistic evaluation of his chances seems reasonable. After all, if former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford can be on his way back to Congress after a scandal that involved actual, rather than virtual, infidelity, then why can’t Weiner do as well with the presumably far less moralistic electorate of the Big Apple?

It’s true that, as the Times feature shows, Weiner can count on the sympathy of the mainstream media, has a huge campaign war chest and the current frontrunner for mayor—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—is a relatively weak candidate who can’t count on much support outside of Manhattan. But Weiner may be miscalculating if he thinks he can pull off the same trick as Sanford. New Yorkers may not be as prudish as the rest of the country about sex, but I think they are far less likely to buy into a redemption campaign.

Sanford may still wind up losing a safe congressional seat for the Republicans in the general election after his primary win. But even if we assume that he will be returned to Congress, it needs to be understood that his appeal is predicated on the existence of a large group of voters who are moralistic enough to be disgusted by his behavior but religious enough to be deeply affected by his talk of asking for God’s forgiveness.

While there are plenty of religious Christians in New York, as well as lots of observant Jews, the sort of redemption tactic Sanford is trying to employ in South Carolina won’t wash there. Instead, Weiner must convince voters that: a. his transgression was no big deal; b. he’s really sorry about it; and c. he’s still the best candidate for the job of mayor. His chances of selling them on “a” and “c” seem fair. But the sorry part may lead to an unfortunate discussion that Sanford’s religious psychodrama has avoided.

Absent the faith-driven grace that Sanford is extracting from his voters, all Weiner is left with is his own repellent personality. While New Yorkers may have not cared much about him being, in Seth’s admirable phrase, “a geyser of spite and malice” prior to the incident because he was competent, the “ick” factor that stems from his sending pictures of his private parts to strangers lingers. South Carolinians may forgive Sanford for being a sinner, but what Weiner needs is for a city full of cynical, tough-minded New Yorkers to forget that he made a laughingstock of himself. Being a fool for love, as Sanford proved to be, is one thing. Being a fool on the Internet is another. The notion that Christians must forgive the repentant won’t win any elections in the five boroughs.

Let’s also remember one crucial aspect of these two scandals. Sanford’s “Appalachian Trail” fibs were pathetic but once his affair was made public, he owned up to it. Weiner’s problems stemmed not only from his bizarre behavior (which is still harder for people to understand than falling for a South American beauty) but his aggressive lies about it in the weeks that led up to his resignation from Congress two years ago.

The Times’s puffy profile of Weiner had many flaws, but none was as bad as the fact that it failed to discuss just how “beefy” he got with reporters. The piece didn’t mention Weiner’s slandering of the late Andrew Breitbart when he falsely claimed that the conservative journalist “hacked” his Twitter account. While opponents will probably stay away from the sexting, his brazen lies and bullying of the press won’t be forgotten.

Contrary to his own evaluation in which he believes he must come back now or give up all hope, I think he might have done better to start another career and return only after showing some success in another field. But the Anthony Weiner portrayed in the Times is a desperate man. Having never held an honest job in his life, he is ill-equipped to face life after politics and clings to the hope of a comeback in no small measure because he can’t imagine doing anything else. Neither can his wife or anyone else. Indeed, it’s clear that right now his only options are a return to his former career as a guttersnipe politician or remaining home playing “Mr. Mom” while Abedin plots Hillary Clinton’s next political move. It’s hard to see that desperation playing well with a New York audience that prizes competence and toughness.

Weiner always liked to pose as the quintessential New Yorker, but his problem may be that he’s simply appealing to the wrong constituency. For all of the contempt that he often displayed for the hicks in the rest of the country, he’d probably be better off trying to win their love than attempting to do so in his hometown. Perhaps I’m prejudiced about the citizens of my native city, but my guess is that New Yorkers aren’t going to buy Weiner’s second act.

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Ready for Weiner, Part Deux?

Perhaps it was always inevitable but ready or not, it appears that Anthony Weiner is trying to worm his way back into public life. Using his always-formidable powers of self-promotion, the disgraced former congressman has started an understated media campaign aimed at testing the waters to see if the world is ready for Weiner, part deux. A story in the New York Post last weekend about his potential run for either mayor or public advocate of New York City has spawned subsequent pieces in the New York Times and other venues, including a feature in Politico in which pollsters are queried about whether it’s too soon for him to risk the judgment of the voters.

The jury is still out as to whether enough time has passed since the scandal about his tweeting pictures of his private parts to women around the country blew up. But with a formidable campaign war chest of $4.5 million still in his possession and a less than scintillating field of possible rivals, the odds of his running next year for mayor — the post he has always coveted — are rising. But before we get all get sucked into the Weiner redemption play that is sure to precede a run for office, it’s important to remember that he was run out of office for lying, not for “sexting.”

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Perhaps it was always inevitable but ready or not, it appears that Anthony Weiner is trying to worm his way back into public life. Using his always-formidable powers of self-promotion, the disgraced former congressman has started an understated media campaign aimed at testing the waters to see if the world is ready for Weiner, part deux. A story in the New York Post last weekend about his potential run for either mayor or public advocate of New York City has spawned subsequent pieces in the New York Times and other venues, including a feature in Politico in which pollsters are queried about whether it’s too soon for him to risk the judgment of the voters.

The jury is still out as to whether enough time has passed since the scandal about his tweeting pictures of his private parts to women around the country blew up. But with a formidable campaign war chest of $4.5 million still in his possession and a less than scintillating field of possible rivals, the odds of his running next year for mayor — the post he has always coveted — are rising. But before we get all get sucked into the Weiner redemption play that is sure to precede a run for office, it’s important to remember that he was run out of office for lying, not for “sexting.”

Weiner’s apologists have always been quick to claim that hounding him out of office was unfair because his misbehavior was of the virtual variety. That’s true as far as it goes, as it appears that his hijinks were confined to salacious and bizarre activity on Twitter or email. But though most New Yorkers probably thought such behavior was not what they expected from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, let alone a newlywed with an accomplished wife, that isn’t what destroyed Weiner’s career.

It was, as it almost always is with such scandals, about his lying. Had he told the truth, it would have been thought odd but it would almost certainly not have been fatal to his career. But Weiner didn’t just fib about his inappropriate behavior. He hatched vicious conspiracy theories in which he accused the late Andrew Breitbart of manufacturing the offensive tweet with the picture of his genitals. He stood in the halls of Congress and publicly berated the press — including sympathetic reporters from CNN– for having the temerity to ask about the story. The initial substance of the scandal was nothing earth shaking, but by the time his lies about Breitbart and the rest of it were exposed — as such lies always must be — he had dug himself such a deep hole of opprobrium that there was no climbing out.

So as we watch and read about the inevitable tell-all interviews in which Weiner will bare his soul, beg for our forgiveness and speak hopefully of using his talents for the good of the nation, let’s recall that his odd proclivities merely served as a window into what his critics had already understood was a rotten political soul. Weiner’s lies about his tweeting were a product of the political vitriol he spewed on every topic during his mercifully truncated congressional career.

At the time of his resignation, it was widely observed that his arrogance and ruthless political tactics had left him without either friends or goodwill when he needed help. Weiner was a past master of hyper-partisan attacks on opponents. There was no limit to either his chutzpah or his willingness to besmirch anyone who got in his way. Even in a town like Washington and a cynical institution such as the Congress, he stood out as a rogue and was not missed when he left. The noises coming from Weiner’s camp which make it look as if they will try again to disgracefully blame his troubles on the late Breitbart tells us that while he may be chastened by his experience, he has not changed.

It may well be that Weiner’s money and a mayoral field with an opening for a white candidate from the boroughs (as opposed to Manhattan) will make the former congressman a serious contender for the Democratic nomination next year. But before the press gets sucked into further promoting his comeback, let’s remember it wasn’t the sexting or the pictures that sunk his career. It was the lying.

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