While most New Yorkers yesterday were savoring a day off, Anthony Weiner was campaigning at a Memorial Day parade in Laurelton, Queens, where he was searching for his mojo with both the press and the public, likening his return to the campaign trail to “seeing live pitching” for the first time in almost two years.
So as Weiner squares up in the batter’s box, a question is being tossed around in political circles: Can he actually win the mayor’s race? Long before Weiner made his reentry official last week, the two most serious notes of skepticism were sounded last month by The New York Times’ Nate Silver and Capital New York’s Josh Benson.
Crunching the numbers from recent polls, Silver sees Weiner in a statistical rut: “…Because many New Yorkers will not consider voting for him, he will need to convert an unusually high percentage of those who still might.”
A Quinnipiac poll seems to confirms Silver’s analysis with nearly half of those polled saying Weiner shouldn’t run for mayor. (The poll was released last Wednesday, the same day Weiner entered the race.) Playing a cranky McCoy to Silver’s logical Spock, Josh Benson forcefully argues that Weiner is short on substance: “Sounding like Schumer never made Weiner a Schumer, just as marrying into Clinton World never made Weiner a Clinton. He's just not about issues the way that they are.”
But will a built-in statistical ceiling and “no new ideas” keep Weiner from finishing in second place in a crowded primary? My mind is spinning with a myriad of possible outcomes after reading Andy Humm’s excellent piece in Gotham Gazette last week that looks at the 1977 Democratic mayoral primary. Humm notes: “This year, the Democratic field is as crowded as it was in 1977 and gaming out who will be the top two in the expected runoff following September’s primary is anybody’s guess.”
With Weiner’s entry, the Democratic primary race resembles “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” with six major candidates prowling the five boroughs on a strange political treasure hunt that they hope will lead them to the West Wing of City Hall. While I do think it’s a heavy lift for Weiner to beat any candidate in a head-to-head primary runoff, the first step is just to get there. And after watching Weiner on the trail so far, I think that his chances to finish at least in second place on Sept. 10, are as good as anyone’s. Get ready for some chaos.