Now that former congresman Anthony Weiner has made clear he is looking seriously at running for mayor of New York City later this year, the next obvious question is: Would he actually stand a chance of being elected?
This is the same Weiner, after all, who was run from Congress after photos of his, um, privates, emerged online in 2011. That Weiner was sending photos to women he never met while his wife, longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, was pregnant with the couple’s first child made it even worse — if that’s possible. (Odd fact: Weiner is the only person to win our “Worst Week in Washington” award four times.)
And yet, if we know anything about politics, it’s that the public loves comeback stories and second chances. Need evidence? Look to South Carolina where Mark Sanford is a favorite to return to Congress next month.
But, has enough time passed for Weiner to write his second act? That depends on who you ask.
“I’ve heard of lots of kinds of therapy, but never electoral therapy,” said one New York City Democratic political insider. “As a voter, I’ve never thought it was my job to help a candidate fill that ‘empty space inside.’ As a consultant, I think he didn’t get off on the right foot with that [too much information] interview.”
Others, however, were more optimistic about Weiner’s chances.
“Acting idiotically is no violation of the law,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant based in New York City. “Considering the recent and threatened spate of indictments and arrests of New York public figures, Weiner’s two-year-and-more old acts are a wiggle on an elephant.”
Let’s do a bit of back-of-the-envelope, top-of-the-head list of pros and cons for Weiner.
Pros: 1) He’s universally known in New York City. 2) The field isn’t filled with world-beaters although New York City Council Speaker Chris Quinn is a clear frontrunner. 3) Weiner has more than $4 million in his campaign account that could be spent on the race plus another $1.5 million in matching funds from the City that he would qualify for if he ran in 2013.
Cons: 1) He’s universally known in New York City. 2) He sent pictures of his privates to random people on the Internet two years ago. 3) See numbers 1 and 2. 4) This is New York City, home of the most aggressive political reporters in the country. “The tab[loid]s will torture him,” said one veteran New York Democrat.
At first glance, it seems a somewhat unlikely proposition that Weiner would be able to transform himself from political pariah to mayor of the nation’s largest city in under three years time.
He could aim a bit lower — New York City Public Advocate or some such — but Weiner ruled out that possibility in the Times magazine story. (“He might be able to run for a job that no one really cares about,” said a New York-based Democratic operative. “Voters are not going to reward Anthony’s behavior with a promotion.”)
Another theory, and this seems to us the best/most plausible one for Weiner, is that he could use a bid for mayor as a sort of political carwash for his past transgressions. He goes into the mayoral race stained by past, he emerges clean (or cleaner). In that construct, whether he can win or not makes no difference. The only thing that matters is that running in 2013 would allow Weiner to answer “I’ve already talked all about that” when he runs for his next office. (Remember that Weiner is only 48 years old.)
The smart money is that Weiner won’t run, that all of his talk about the mayoral race (and his high-profile re-emergence on the cover of the Times magazine) is a sort of trial balloon to see how damaged he really is.
“I don’t think it’s a crazy idea that he could serve again,” said Michael Feldman, a Democratic consultant with the Glover Park Group. “New Yorkers respect resilience, they encourage redemption, and they love a comeback. Why not?”
White House officials said President Obama “enjoyed a constructive and wide-ranging discussion” with Senate Republicans at dinner Wednesday night.
The anti-tax Club For Growth wants National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to clarify his remark criticizing the use of chained CPI in Obama’s budget.
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) reached a compromise on a measure to expand background checks on gun purchases. President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) back it. But, the National Rifle Association doesn’t. The cloture vote to proceed with consideration of gun control measures will take place at 11 a.m.
First lady Michelle Obama made an emotional plea for gun control votes.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager criticized an audio leak of a private conversation as “Gestapo” tactics.
Ben Carson withdrew as Johns Hopkins’ commencement speaker.
Sally Jewell was confirmed by the Senate to be the next Interior secretary.
Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) wants Congress to take a 20 percent pay cut to show solidarity with federal workers hit by the sequester.
Vincent Sheheen (D) will run for governor against Gov. Nikki Haley (R) a second time.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) met to discuss their budget proposals.
Former congressman Asa Hutchinson (R) officially kicked off his Arkansas gubernatorial campaign.
Former Democratic congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky is weighing a run in Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District. She is Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law.
Three Republican candidates in Massachusetts’ Senate special election faced each other in a heated debate.
A company Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe used to chair had to pay property taxes because it had yet to produce anything.
“Obama releases a budget plan with a simple goal: Ending the debt standoff” — Lori Montgomery, Washington Post
“Sen. Joe Manchin bridges gun-control divide to pave way for expanded laws” – Ed O’Keefe and David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post
“Can Gang of Eight stay tight?” — Manu Raju and Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico
“David Corn and Mother Jones find themselves with another audio scoop” — Paul Farhi, Washington Post
“Republican presidential delegate rule quarrel could sour wary conservatives on outreach plan” — Thomas Beaumont, Associated Press
“Alaska GOP soap opera continues with ouster of chairwoman” — Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News
“Toomey Refused to Have Schumer at Gun Deal Presser” — Meredith Shiner, Roll Call