Feature

Could Anthony Weiner actually win the New York City mayoral race?

A new poll shows the former congressman placing second. Does that mean Weiner should jump in?

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) is still considering whether to jump into the New York City mayoral race, but his recent glide back into the public spotlight suggests that he's giving it a lot of thought. Following a big, confessional profile in The New York Times Magazine, Weiner released a 64-point plan to improve New York City on Sunday and did his first TV interview, with local network NY1, on Monday, once again apologizing for the lewd tweets that led to his resignation.

On Tuesday night, Weiner got more food for thought, when Marist and NBC New York released the first poll of the New York mayoral race with him included. The headline number looks like good news for Weiner: He starts the race in the No. 2 slot for the Democratic primary, trailing only frontrunner Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker. Weiner's 15 percent is still pretty far behind Quinn's 26 percent, but Quinn has been running for months, as have the four Democrats Weiner beats, including city comptroller John Liu, public advocate Bill de Blasio, and former comptroller Bill Thompson.

Well, not so fast: When you dig a little deeper in the poll, the numbers get decidedly mixed for Weiner. A full 50 percent of Democrats say they wouldn't consider voting for him, for example, and 46 percent say they don't want him to even run, versus 40 percent who say he should. Still, those numbers are an improvement from a poll Marist conducted last October, and the biggest shift is that more Democrats now view him favorably than unfavorably (45 percent versus 41 percent). Then there's this splash of cold water:

"The numbers show it's a wide-open contest with no candidate closing the sale," Marist polling director Lee Miringoff tells Bloomberg News. As for Weiner, "while some numbers make him appear viable, he's got a long way to go to establish credibility."

New York City political consultant George Arzt is among those who doesn't think Weiner can close the gap. "I don't believe that he can grow and I believe he's near his ceiling," he tells Talking Points Memo. "I think the more people know about him the more they won't vote for him."

Maybe Weiner's strong showing in the poll is enough of the political redemption he is apparently seeking. On the other hand, he still has about $4.3 million in his campaign chest, and if he can't win outright, his candidacy would greatly increase the chances that Quinn wouldn't get the 40 percent she needs to avoid a runoff election for the Democratic nod. Without Weiner in the race, Quinn polled at 30 percent, while De Blasio rose to 15 percent.

If Weiner were to pull off an upset over Quinn, though, he'd be strongly favored to win the general election, according to the Marist poll. Facing likely GOP nominee Joe Lhota, Weiner would get 51 percent versus Lhota's 28 percent. Yet, versus Quinn, Lhota would fare worse, losing 19 percent to 59 percent.

"He deserves to be given a voice and to be in the race and to be heard and to be a part of the debates," Brooklyn resident Arthur Rafael, 52, tells NBC New York. "I'm not saying I'm voting for him, but I believe he's earnest and possibly not corrupt."

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