In an hour, back in his old Austin Street stomping grounds, Weiner bathed in the adoration of his base under a yellow Cohen’s Optical awning.
“I signed your petition.”
“We miss you very much.”
“I’m voting for you.”
“I want an 8-by-10 picture.” (“You want an oil painting?” he responded.)
Sliwa resisted the razz and simply waved hello. Others brought salutations from mutual friends and old girlfriends. (“No kidding! I haven’t seen her in a while,” Weiner responded to one. “If you see Alli before I do, tell her I said hello.”)
Not everyone was on board. The Clintons have forsaken him, Schumer is disappointed in him, and Bloomberg can’t stand him, according to sources from the respective camps. But only two passersby expressed skepticism.
“You won’t act like a madman anymore, will you?”
Said another: “What if I did what you did online? Would you let me be a police officer?”
And some strongly defended his risque tweets. “The most peculiar of all the perversions is abstinence,” one person said.
“I would be lying to you if I told you I thought the campaign would be going this well a couple of weeks in,” Weiner said in an interview. “And we’re doing well.”
The Twitter story isn’t going away; the Times inadvertently posted an article titled “For Women in Weiner Scandal, Indignity Lingers” before it was ready for publication, which was immediately taken down. And there are increasingly critical examinations of his scant legislative record. Yet no one in the race has the political capacity to relate to people like Weiner, who makes it a point to relate to everyone.
“You a registered Democrat?” he asked an elderly woman wheeling a shopping cart by him.
“I am,” she said. “And I’m not voting for uh, what’s her name? The dyke.”
“Okay. I just need you to sign the petition to get me on the ballot,” said Weiner, who then noticed the incredulous reaction of a reporter and added, “and you really shouldn’t talk that way about people.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman said.
“It’s okay,” Weiner responded. “It’s not your fault.”
Chris Quinn had a toothache.
“It’s pretty bad.” Quinn stood in a gray houndstooth blazer and glossy red shoes on her good-luck petitioning corner in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. “You can’t stop touching it.”
An arm-twisting, deal-making pragmatist with a Chelsea-liberal reputation, Quinn was not letting the pain get in the way.
“Not for nothing, talk is cheap,” she said when asked about Weiner. She argued that as the leader of the city’s legislative body, she had spent years getting things done for regular New Yorkers, an argument she has since made in more-pointed speeches as she embraces her role as the accomplishment candidate. But one act of Quinn’s council stands above all others in the race. In 2008, Bloomberg decided he wanted a third term and Quinn, who had hoped to run, reversed her position on term limits and wrangled votes to change the law. Since then, Bloomberg has rarely missed an opportunity to say nice things about her.