Former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) friends believe that, while his campaign for mayor may have become a joke, it will set him up for a future political comeback.
New York voters puzzle over why Weiner stays in the race despite constant ridicule. The city’s tabloids pump out streams of headlines punning on his name while late-night comics have made him a national punch line.
Instead of dropping out, Weiner has embraced the media maelstrom in a calculated gamble that voters would respect his toughness and dedication to their issues.
A new documentary by Stateless Media captures Weiner’s unorthodox campaign strategy, which sometimes resonated and, other times, fell flat with voters.
Weiner’s friends say he is setting himself up for a comeback in another race and another year.
Bill Brandt, a close friend of Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, said Weiner’s campaign will clear the way for a future run for office.
“The truth of the matter is he’s been beaten up now for two months nonstop. When he does something for the future, it will be fair of him to say ‘asked and answered’” when reporters ask him about his personal life, said Brandt, who is also a long-time supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“I’m pretty certain he’ll find his equilibrium and move forward from there. He is a quintessential New Yorker. When you talk about the politics of the city and the state, there are a lot of offices where he can offer phenomenal service,” he added.
The personal strain showed Wednesday when Weiner raged at a Jewish heckler at a bakery in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. A video of the exchange quickly went viral.
“I do believe he’ll stay in public service,” said Jim Sideris, a retired cop from Flushing, Queens, and one of Weiner’s most loyal volunteers. “I don’t believe he’ll ever back down.
“People do rebound. People lose elections and rebound,” he added.
Faced with dispiriting poll numbers, Weiner has embraced the role of comedian. Last weekend he posed suggestively with a large salami at a Bronx deli, winking at the persistent double entendres that have swirled around his campaign. On Monday, he hammed it up as a Caribbean-style MC atop a float in the West Indian Day Parade.
“Anybody here from Jamaica? Anybody here from Barbados? Anybody here from Guyana?” he called to the crowd in a fake Jamaican accent: “Anybody here from Staten Island?”
Weiner remains coy on whether he’ll run for office again, refusing to acknowledge his race for mayor has become a lost cause.
“I don’t imagine I’ll serve more than two terms so eventually I’ll have to return to something else,” he said. “Once you’ve been mayor, there’s no other job in politics that really adds up.”
If he makes another bid, he would have a powerful ally in Abedin, a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton.
Abedin tapped Clinton donors to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the campaign and could do so again if she decides to stay with him. Last month, he called her his most influential adviser, even though she has not appeared on the stump with him since July.
Brandt, a corporate finance consultant, is one of the donors from Clinton World who gave the maximum amount.
“I’m very close to Huma. I trust her and her judgment greatly,” he said. “I met Anthony, and he’s a dynamo. I’m also comfortable letting the voters decide. Some people have asked me whether he should drop out. He should finish this.”
Some voters are skeptical whether the power couple will remain married despite Abedin’s declaration at an awkward press conference in late July that she had forgiven him.
If nothing else, Weiner’s dogged persistence has shown that he retains significant support among the city’s African-American voters. During the campaign’s final stretch, he focused on the predominantly African-American sections of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
“I like Weiner a lot. I’m a C-SPAN junkie, and I like the way he performed in Congress,” said Arthur Rivers, who met Weiner at a voter meet-and-greet event in St. Albans, a middle-class African-American neighborhood in Queens. “He’s not a weak candidate. He’s not wishy washy like some of the of the other candidates.”
Black voters have been more forgiving of Weiner’s personal life.
A Quinnipiac University poll taken after he admitted in late July to have continued his sexting habit after resigning from Congress in 2011 showed that 53 percent of black voters thought he should stay in the race. Only 25 percent of white voters said he should finish his campaign.
Weiner’s campaign will likely end after the Sept. 10 Democratic primary, a date some of his weary aides privately admit can’t come soon enough. Unless a candidate captures 40 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff.
After leading the pack in July, Weiner failed to break 10 percent support in a recent poll.