New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner provided more detail about his widely scrutinized sexual habits Thursday, telling reporters that he had exchanged lewd messages online with as many as three women after resigning from Congress in 2011. Meanwhile, new polling data indicate that voters are losing patience with him, at least for now:
While Weiner says he bets voters care more about their futures than his past, some appear to have deserted him in the first poll taken entirely after his latest indiscretions were revealed.
Before the revelations, Weiner had been near the top of most polls gauging the Democratic mayoral primary race. But a new NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll showed he had fallen behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the crowded Democratic field.
Quinn leads him 25 percent to 16 percent among registered Democratic voters, according to the poll, which surveyed 551 such voters Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. It also found 55 percent of Democrats now have an unfavorable impression of him, while 30 percent see him favorably. The numbers were nearly the reverse of a June poll by the same entities, which tallied a 52-36 percent favorable-to-unfavorable split then.
“New York City Democrats were willing to give Anthony Weiner a second chance but are reluctant to excuse his behavior now,” Marist College polling director Lee Miringoff said in an analysis of the results.
Still, Democratic voters are roughly evenly split on whether he should drop out of the race, and on whether his digital dalliances will affect their votes.
Weiner’s opponent Bill Thompson is now favored by some analysts:
“At this stage of the game, Thompson is the guy to keep an eye on, obviously,” said Quinnipiac polling director Mickey Carroll. “I wouldn’t put it in the bank, but it looks pretty good for him.”
The former city comptroller, Thompson is the anti-Weiner when it comes to charisma on the campaign trail. He’s so low key that voters sometimes forget that they voted for him four years ago. But he came close to beating Mayor Michael Bloomberg in that race, surprising almost everyone.
The only black candidate in a primary where minorities are expected to be the majority, Thompson wins 35 percent of African-American voters in the latest Quinnipiac survey of likely voters. Only Weiner comes anywhere close, with 31 percent. Thompson may have alienated some black voters by saying stop-and-frisk is a “useful tool” while calling for the end of abusive practices. (Weiner has compared stop-and-frisk to Nazi Germany but also calls for reform rather than elimination; current comptroller John Liu is against it). He has the endorsement of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, the Senate Latino Caucus chair.
Thompson also has the influential teachers’ union and the New York City firefighters on his side, as well as financial interests from his time as comptroller and subsequent career in banking. In a runoff between the top two vote-getters, which is by far the most likely outcome given the number of candidates in the primary field, Thompson beats Weiner and City Council President Christine Quinn.
A Marist/NBC/WSJ poll out Thursday has Thompson in a statistical dead heat for that second runoff spot with Weiner and Public Advocate Bill De Blasio. Quinn is the frontrunner in that poll.
And polls are probably underestimating Thompson’s support, as they did in 2009.
“His base vote of African-Americans and Latinos tends in primaries in New York to be late-breaking,” said Bill Cunningham, a former Bloomberg adviser. “They tune in to a race closer to Election Day.”
If Weiner somehow makes it to the runoff with Thompson, institutional forces will rally around the former comptroller. If Quinn makes it to the runoff, they’ll split (Quinn has powerful unions on her side too) but Thompson will have a stronger hold on minority voters.
See images of other disgraced politicians who have sought to resume their careers below.
Voters were reminded of Weiner’s indiscretions earlier this week, when a gossip Web site called The Dirty revealed that his behavior had continued well after his resignation from the House. The site’s editor, Nik Richie, objected to Weiner’s statement that some of The Dirty’s reporting was inaccurate:
Richie, 34, didn’t appreciate the suggestion that anything he’d reported on TheDirty.com was factually compromised. “Those are complete lies,” says the Internet entrepreneur of Weiner’s some-true-some-not claims. “He’s just covering himself for whatever lies he told his wife.” Weiner’s apology, Richie says, is “half-hearted,” and he’s “running a race and he wants people to be confused.”
When politicians find factual errors in a report, they commonly appeal directly to the news outlet and request corrections and other forms of literary recompense. In this case, says Richie, he’s heard nothing from the Weiner camp — no request for takedown, retraction, correction or clarification. “They haven’t reached out whatsoever,” he says.
As boss of a site that admittedly traffics in user-submitted rumors — and that has stirred its share of ethical tumult — Richie is quite accustomed to receiving such requests. After some embarrassing bit of information gets posted, he says, the subject of the news is generally prompt in contacting the site. “It usually takes a good hour for someone from their camp to call saying, ‘Please remove this.’ It happens all the time,” explains Richie, who has been in this line of work since 2007. “I try to never comply. I get my lawyer to send a letter back telling them to go [expletive] themselves.” Harvard University’s Digital Media Law Project calls Richie’s creation a “tasteless website.”
The tip on Weiner’s online extracurriculars, says Richie, came through the tasteless site’s forte — its gossip-obsessed fans. The woman who had this scandal-renewing conversation with Weiner was a fan of TheDirty.com and in April contacted Richie with the bare bones of her online interactions with the freshly aspiring politico. Richie recalls that he “kind of blew her off” because there weren’t enough specifics in her story. “I needed more evidence. I needed to make sure it’s factual. And she got scared and didn’t want to get out there,” says Richie.
Alexandra Petri fantasizes about what it would be like to chat with Weiner online:
You: “Are you a naughty boy?”
Him: “Yes. Punish me.”
You: “Naughty like you kept sending lewd messages to a bunch of strange women on the Internet even when you lost your job, almost ruined your marriage, and basically ALL OF AMERICA asked you to stop
You: “Okay, I’m going to punish you by electing someone else mayor ;) .”
You: “Please put your pants back on.”
For past coverage of this scandal, continue reading here.