Anthony Weiner knows exactly what he did. “To some degree, with 49 days left until primary day, perhaps I’m surprised more things didn’t come out sooner,” said the serial texter yesterday evening, at a quietly defiant press conference in which he renewed his request to voters for a “second chance,” even though it’s more like the third or fourth. He knew when he decided to run that there were more lewd chats, more pictures of his penis, more women with the ammunition to humiliate him and his wife Huma, even from after rationality would suggest he had stopped doing the thing that ruined his congressional career.
And with all that knowledge — and ego, no doubt — he still decided to run, believing he could overcome all of it. Based on the polls so far this election, and the timing of this latest leak, with more than six weeks until anyone casts a vote, he might still be right.
Weiner’s dirty mind and missives just haven’t hurt him much up to this point. Since his April mirage of self-analysis sob story in the New York Times Magazine, Weiner has had time to cement his redemption narrative in the public consciousness, using reams of free publicity to stress his changed ways. By the time The Dirty chats leaked this week, the foundation was already set: A few polls, though not all of them, even showed him leading the race.
There will be more polls soon that tell us whether Weiner’s recidivism hurt him. But so far, they’ve shown that the sexting didn’t disqualify him. Among registered Democrats polled by Quinnipiac on July 15, 69 percent of voters said financial impropriety was worse than sexual misconduct, much more than the 22 percent who said the sex stuff was worse. That includes men, women, whites, blacks, and hispanics, all of whom downplayed the importance of behavior like Weiner’s. Overall, Weiner is showing strong among black voters, 52 percent of whom have a favorable opinion of him, based on the same poll. Among those same black voters, only 28 percent said sexual mistakes are worse than financial ones, while 65 percent put it the other way around. And in a Siena poll from earlier this month, 59 percent of voters agreed that Weiner deserves another chance after his original sexting scandal, including 54 percent of whites, 64 percent of Latinos, and 66 percent of blacks.
The question now, of course, is whether knowing he sent similar messages after the public found out about it changes anything. On one hand, it’s just more of the same, and that’s the point Weiner is trying to hammer home: “If reporters want to go try to find more, I can’t say that they’re not going to be able to find another picture,” he admitted at the beginning of his candidacy. “Basically, New Yorkers know the story. I did it. I did it with multiple people.”
His prediction proved true, and this time we were prepared. “In many ways, things aren’t that much different than they were yesterday,” he shrugged last night. Yes, it was cringe-inducing, but we’ve seen it before, and Weiner is betting on the fact that we’ll be less shocked this time around. In a way, the timing might even be ideal: If Weiner expected another round of nudes all along, better they land in the middle of summer, months after his redemption campaign solidified — any earlier might have shattered it — but with plenty of time before the actual vote to forget about this new sideshow. (Then again, there could always be more to come …)
It is totally possible that the polls will change now that Weiner has shown himself to be much less than completely honest (again), embarrassing his wife in the process (again), and prompting the powerful local press to turn on him completely. But with 48 days left until the primary, he’s not wrong to wait and see.