Call it the rehabilitation project gone wrong.
As we have written in this space before, an obvious driving force in Anthony Weiner's decision to run for for mayor of New York appears to have been the desire to wash himself clean in the eyes of the electorate. Even before news surfaced that Weiner exchanged sexually explicit online messages with women even after resigning from Congress, he was always going to be a long-shot to get elected mayor.
But, the thinking went, if Weiner could shake off all the cobwebs, survive a campaign in one piece and put up a respectable showing, he would be well-positioned to run for something else down the line. It would be the loss that is actually a win.
Those prospects have disappeared.
In keeping up a campaign in the face of graphic new revelations about his personal life, and opening himself up to harsh criticism from within his own party, Weiner has arguably left himself in worse shape than when he started. He faces new scrutiny and has attracted new negative attention from leading Democrats who might have otherwise kept mum over his candidacy, had the news about his online relationships not surfaced.
If Weiner runs for anything again in the future, questions about whether he has returned to his old habits since the last campaign (meaning this campaign) are sure to arise, since even after trying to put it all behind him this time around, Weiner was unable to clean the slate.
The campaign is not over yet. And Weiner has shown no signs he is going to drop out. But he is not in position to seriously compete anymore. And it's hard to argue that he has put himself in a better position to run for future office.
And now, to the Line! Below we rank the top five most interesting races of 2013. The marquee matchup is number one. The end of the Massachusetts Senate race means it drops off the list. Meanwhile, the New York City comptroller's races comes onto the line for the first time.
5. New Jersey Senate (Democratic-controlled): This is turning into the race that never was. With less than two weeks to go before the primary, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is lapping the Democratic field — and his opponents have yet to really punch him. Given that Republicans were unable to recruit a top contender in this blue state race, the Democratic primary is the de facto general election. Get used to saying it: Senator Cory Booker. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. New York City comptroller (Democratic-controlled): This race comes onto the Line for one reason: Eliot Spitzer. The former governor whose career came crashing down in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal is back. And so far, he is doing well, with polling showing him leading Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Of course, much of that is likely due to the fact that Spitzer has such high name ID. We will find out in the coming weeks whether his fate will more closely resemble Mark Sanford's successful bid for political redemption, or Weiner's disastrous comeback attempt. (Previous ranking: N/A)
3. Boston mayor (Democratic-controlled): A dozen candidates. The first open race for the seat since 1983. It's a political nerd's dream, and a contest that has sucked up all the oxygen in Massachusetts political circles. A Suffolk poll taken last month showed City Councilor-at-large John Connolly and state Rep. Martin Walsh leading the pack. But neither cracked 15 percent, illustrating how open the race is right now. (Previous ranking: 5)
2. New York City mayor (Independent-controlled): Amid all the attention on Weiner, don't lose sight of the fact that there is a real campaign here, which he has basically no chance of winning. But who does? A recent poll showed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn leading the Democratic primary with 27 percent of the vote. Remember, if no candidate gets
a majority, 40 percent, a runoff is triggered, and Quinn appears well-positioned to make the cut. The question is whether Public Advocate Bill De Blasio or former comptroller Bill Thompson can secure the second spot in the runoff. (Previous ranking: 1)
1. Virginia governor (Republican-controlled): This is the race with the most at stake this year. And as we have said time and again, it's been a remarkably sleepy contest. Current Gov. Bob McDonnell's problems have upstaged the campaign to an extent, though look for the race to come into focus as the fall approaches. Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe held a small lead over Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) in a recent poll. Expect this race to be tight all the way to Election Day. (Previous ranking: 2)