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Losing ground in the polls and under pressure to quit, New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner revealed Thursday he sent explicit texts to as many as 10 women, including three after he left Congress in disgrace in 2011.
And yet he remained in the race.
As Weiner visited a Brooklyn soup kitchen, a poll released Thursday appeared to show voters' distaste for his revelations. Weiner lost his lead against five other Democratic candidates. He now trails City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who had the support of 25% of Democratic primary voters compared with Weiner's 16% in the poll by NBC 4 New York, The Wall Street Journal and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. Last month, the same poll showed Weiner leading Quinn by 5 percentage points.
Public advocate Bill de Blasio and former city comptroller William Thompson were tied at 14% each; 19% of Democratic voters were undecided.
Weiner told reporters on the campaign trail that he is "working with people" to get help for sexually explicit texting, but that it is not an addiction. "I don't believe that it is. The people that I am working with don't believe that it is," he said. "The point is that it's behind me. I have worked through these things.''
Weiner is taking criticism from both parties. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — Weiner's Democratic leader when he was in Congress — said Thursday his behavior and that of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, accused of sexual harassment, is "so disrespectful of women. And what's really stunning about it is, they don't even realize it. They don't have a clue.''
Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, a billionaire supermarket owner, pointed out that the mayor of New York is in charge of its school system. "No parent in this city wants someone with these problems to interact with their daughters or be an example for their sons,'' he said in a statement. Catsimatidis, de Blasio and Thompson have all said Weiner should drop out. Party primaries are Sept. 10. If no candidate wins more than 40% of the vote, a runoff will take place Oct. 1.
The Marist poll, conducted overnight Wednesday, showed Weiner's popularity plunging. More than half of Democratic voters, or 55%, have an unfavorable opinion of Weiner compared with 30% who view him favorably. Fifteen percent say they have not heard of Weiner or are unsure how to rate him, the poll showed. Last month, Weiner's favorable rating was 52% in the poll. But 47% of those surveyed said Weiner should stay int eh race, while 43% said he should drop out.
"This latest revelation cost him severely,'' said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. "Redemption overload has certainly set in.''
It's not clear if Weiner's plunge is permanent, Miringoff said: nearly one-fifth of voters (19%) are still undecided and 23% said they could change their minds about which candidate they support."The debates are yet to come. The TV ads are starting to sprinkle in. There's still a race to be waged," he said.
Weiner's prolonged scandal — and Quinn's failure to consolidate her lead — could tip the general election toward Republican candidate Joe Lhota, a top aide under Rudy Giuliani and immediate past chairman of the regional transit agency, said political scientist Gerald Benjamin of SUNY-New Paltz. "Voters will look at the record of Republican mayoralties, will look at the tone and character of this primary and look at the failure of a Democratic candidate to provoke any great enthusiasm — apart from Weiner — and will vote Republican.'' Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg, now an independent, first ran as a Republican, that would make three Republican mayors in a row. In a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly six to one, that outcome "would be truly historic,'' Benjamin says.