New York City congressman Anthony Weiner finally announced today that he will not, in fact, be running for mayor in the fall. The decision was widely anticipated, especially after incumbent candidate Mayor Bloomberg had flexed his financial muscle very early in the race in a seeming effort to intimidate or scare off competition. While yesterday his staff vaguely denied that he'd made a decision, Weiner's announcement came in the form of a New York Times editorial this morning.
Weiner took pains at the top of his editorial to make it clear that what made his choice was the Democrats in Washington so desperately needing help right now (we'll let that one slide), and not Bloomberg's money or power. "All you need to do is see the avalanche of television ads for Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose huge war chest and incumbency can be daunting. It’s also easy to understand the desire to focus on the horse race aspect of a campaign," he writes. "But for me, these have been side issues."
But over the next half of the editorial, Weiner makes it pretty clear that money is actually the central issue. "The mayor is expected to spend $80 million of his own money in the race, more than 10 times what candidates who have not opted out of the city’s public campaign finance program, as Mr. Bloomberg has, can spend in a primary," he adds, and you can almost hear the pitch of his voice rising. "The sad truth for a political candidate without deep pockets is that while money isn’t the only thing, it does matter." Weiner cites Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 Supreme Court decision that allows candidates to spend as much of their own money as they want on their own campaigns. "If one football team has 110 players on the field," he theorizes, practically wailing now, "the team with 11 has a hard time getting through the blocking and tackling on the crowded turf."
Now the main competition left for Mayor Bloomberg is Democrat Bill Thompson, who likely will also have to accept public financing and deal with tepid support from party leaders. After so many candidates have been crushed under the heel of the Third Terminator, though, you've gotta give him credit for having cojones.