You Laughed At Weiner, But Now He's Rising

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner only joined New York City's mayoral race one month ago, but he's already made it to the top.

According to a recent Marist College poll, Weiner leads the Democratic nomination with 25% of the vote. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who was a strong front-runner over the last few months, is now behind by 5%.

"We fully expect the polls to fluctuate throughout the campaign, but we are confident that on Election Day, when voters have to decide who they want to lead this city," Quinn's campaign spokesman said to the Daily News about the new poll results. "They will choose someone who has demonstrated the ability to lead and deliver."

Clearly, voters are responding positively to Weiner's name, an ironic advantage for him over his rivals given its ties to a political scandal in 2011. Or perhaps they're warming up to his aggressive presence at campaign forums and his middle class message.

"My ambition is to win every union member," Weiner said at a forum on June 25. "I don't buy the idea that you take the electorate and you chop it up into little pieces of a pie. I don't believe in the idea that you go out and make a list of which endorsements you want."

But the primaries are still months away and current poll numbers are hardly an indication of the final tally. Candidates like Quinn and former comptroller Bill Thompson have had a steady stream of support from party organizations, officials, and unions: a definite edge. Weiner has been building his campaign from the ground up.

Should Weiner keep his lead, he'll most likely be up against Republican candidate and former MTA chief Joseph Lhota, who currently has 28% of the Republican vote, according to the same Marist poll. Lhota has already made his feelings clear about Weiner in a fundraising email sent out Wednesday and is the first candidate to openly criticize him on his past.

"It's the same old story with Anthony Weiner," the email said. "First, he lies to the public, the press and his family. And then he makes up his own facts. This is a pattern that is simply unacceptable."

Weiner, in response, said that he thinks this race may become a contest between him and Lhota, and portrayed the decision as between "someone who wants to have the city move forward ... and someone who wants to have another Giuliani administration."

In the meantime, the former congressman has been working on some policy changes of his own. Last week he announced a health care reform plan and proposed that city workers, who normally don't pay anything towards their health insurance, begin dishing out 10% of the cost. He wants the city government to pay for all health care in a new "single payer" system and cut out insurance companies — something he advocated for while still in Congress.

In the end, Anthony Weiner doesn't really care about the poll numbers.

"In many ways, it doesn't change anything," he said to NBC New York. "We're going to keep talking about ideas for the middle class."