Weiner's Mayoral Ambitions Twittering Away?

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D.-N.Y.) finds himself embroiled in a scandal and potential coverup after a picture of an aroused, though clothed, man’s genitalia was sent from his official Twitter account to a 21-year-old college student in Seattle.  Weiner’s changing explanations for the tweet and his behavior in the days after the picture surfaced have raised questions about his involvement, leading to speculation on whether he will ultimately be forced to resign his seat.  Former New York Congressman Christopher Lee was similarly forced to resign earlier this year after he sent a lurid photograph of himself to a woman he met through Craigslist.

Weiner comments to CNN on Tuesday did not do much to put a lid on the burgeoning scandal either. Weiner repeatedly refused to answer whether the private parts in question were actually his.  He refused to answer any questions about the matter at all, referring reporters to statements his office released over the holiday weekend and labeling the whole issue a “distraction.”

While the question of Weiner’s congressional career remains somewhat in doubt, the scandal may have already dealt a blow to his political career outside Washington.  Weiner has made no secret of his interest in running for mayor of New York City in 2013, after Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s term is up.  Weiner ran for the Democratic nomination in 2005 and contemplated running again in 2009 before deciding not to challenge the billionaire Bloomberg and his formidable war chest.

“Hey, news flash, I’m interested,” Weiner told reporters after a speech at the liberal Center for American Progress earlier this year.  “I have a passing interest in the management of New York.  It would be exceedingly coy of me, especially in [Washington, D.C.], to present that I’m not interested,” he said. 

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Weiner led all potential candidates for mayor with nearly $4 million in his campaign account, according to the most recent filing with the New York State Board of Elections.  His closest challenger in the money race is current City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who only reported having more than 25% less cash on hand, $2.8 million, than Weiner. 

But, one well-connected operative with experience campaigning in New York City told HUMAN EVENTS Weiner’s unofficial mayoral campaign may be over before it even begins, due at least in part to the Twittergate scandal.  The operative said that Weiner was not in as good a position to capture the Democratic nomination as many think, and said that if the scandal becomes a national issue, it may deal his nascent campaign a death blow.

“The main reason Weiner would be disfavored isn’t this flap, but the fact that the [Democratic] Party’s bosses are as seniority-driven as national Republicans are.  Weiner hasn’t kissed enough rings yet for it to be his turn,” the operative said.  “If Democrats think now is the time for New York to have a Rahm Emanuel of our very own … this Twitter flap will not enter their calculations for a second.  That is, unless the national press turns it into something.” 

Weiner’s avoidance of questions about the scandal and his refusal to refer what he alleges is a federal crime—the unauthorized hacking of a federal official’s computer—to the authorities for investigation could serve to focus more scrutiny by the national press, ultimately hurting his chances at the mayoral nomination.

Weiner’s troubles could also boost the chances of another high-profile liberal candidate, City Comptroller John Liu.  Comptroller is a citywide elected official that acts as the chief financial officer for the city and is second in the line of mayoral succession.  Liu, the first Asian-American to hold citywide office, has the backing of the politically powerful Working Families Party, a far-left liberal party with its origins in ACORN.

Just two weeks ago, one prominent Democratic donor publicly criticized Weiner for his stance against an independent redistricting commission.  Bill Samuels, a former finance chairman of the state Democratic Campaign Commission said Weiner was “too shrill.”  “We don’t’ need a divisive voice.  We need a good, calm manager in this city,” Samuels said.

Weiner is a protégé of former president Bill Clinton.  Clinton even officiated at Weiner’s nuptials last year in which he wed the longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin.  His calls to move on from the Twitter scandal echo the former President’s response to the Monica Lewinsky affair.  President Clinton ultimately emerged from that scandal and salvaged his position in the polls by the end of his term in office.  It remains to be seen whether Rep. Weiner will get the chance to repair the damage to his reputation.