It keeps getting worse for Anthony Weiner. Nearly a week after acknowledging that he exchanged lewd messages with as many as three women since he resigned from Congress over similar behavior, the New York City mayoral candidate has been pilloried by rivals, abandoned by his campaign manager and pummeled in the polls, his front-runner status all but a distant memory.
The latest sign of Weiner’s fall came Monday, when a Quinnipiac University poll found him in fourth place in the seven-candidate race for the Democratic nomination. Just 16% of likely Democratic primary voters said they would vote for Weiner — a 10-point drop from a July 24 poll that he led.
Perhaps more troubling for Weiner, a majority of the poll’s respondents said he should drop out of the race and 65% felt that his personal behavior is a legitimate campaign issue and not a private matter with his wife. This followed a weekend during which the manager of his campaign quit, reportedly after being surprised by Weiner’s latest revelations, and former members of the Obama and Clinton Administrations criticized him on the Sunday political talk shows.
“His negatives in the electorate are so high you have to believe that his growth is limited,” says Scott Levenson, a New York Democratic strategist who worked on David Dinkins’ winning mayoral campaign in 1989. “And that in combination with his character challenges, with his late entry into race, with his lack of institutional support of any kind, makes the challenge of him becoming mayor too steep a hill to a climb.”
Weiner has been adamant that he plans to stay in the race until the primary election on September 10. On Monday, shortly before the latest poll results were released, Weiner sent a solicitation e-mail to supporters that couched him as a victim of the press and others outside of the city who had called for his resignation. “A lot of people who don’t have a vote want to decide who the next Mayor will be,” it read, “If you’d like to help me fight back, please donate.”
The biggest beneficiary of Weiner’s downfall has been city-council speaker Christine Quinn, who has led the polls taken after the latest sexting disclosures. On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Quinn tried multiple times to dodge questions about whether Weiner should resign before finally acknowledging that she thought he had “disqualified himself” to be mayor. At a campaign event on Monday in Williamsburg, Quinn tried again to keep the onus on her candidacy. “This race is about the future, not former Congress member Weiner’s past,” she said.
So long as Weiner stays in the race, that may be wishful thinking. As Weiner continues campaigning, he has struggled to shift the focus from his scandals. At a Friday event in the Staten Island yard of a man whose home was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, Weiner was asked just one question about the topic. He then allowed general questions and, quickly deluged by scandal queries, snapped at a reporter inquiring about his chances. “I’ve answered that six times,” a seemingly agitated Weiner said. “You want me to go again for you?”
Weiner has endured similar questions at every public event since the latest disclosures, and they are wearing on both the candidate and his campaign. “It is hard to get my message out,” Weiner admitted after the Staten Island event. “There is going to reach a point fairly soon when I’m going to say, I’ve talked enough about it.”