Besides the shocking revelation that not a single Democratic candidate for mayor composts (for shame!) there was very little new ground broken during Tuesday night’s mayoral debate, the last before the primary on September 10. If anything, the debate reflected the latest poll showing Bill de Blasio with a commanding lead over his nearest challengers, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson.
Quinn and Thompson gunned hard for de Blasio–no surprise there–though, weirdly, instead of de Blasio himself, it was Anthony Weiner, polling at an anemic 7 percent, who emerged as the fiercest defender of de Blasio’s record.
First, Quinn criticized de Blasio for accepting campaign contributions from landlords on the Public Advocate’s “Worst Landlords” list. “It’s Bill talking out of both sides of his mouth,” she said. “Making a list that’s supposed to help tenants, but really it ended up becoming a campaign fundraising list.”
Weiner wouldn’t stand for that. “No one’s fought harder to stand up to slumlords than Bill has. That’s not a good issue to hit him on,” he said. “Accusing him of being a defender of slumlords is pretty ridiculous.”
Instead, he said, it was Quinn’s work to ensure Bloomberg’s third term “that’s the real crime.”
When the other candidates attacked de Blasio over his Pre-K plan, Weiner asked sagely, “Is there anyone on the stage who hasn’t proposed stuff that Albany’s gonna have to help with?”
And when de Blasio came under fire, characterized by his opponents as a flip-flopper, it was Weiner who said while a person might change his mind or change opinion, “you don’t change your values.”
What the hell is going on? folks at home wondered.
Err, why does Weiner keep jumping in to defend DeBlasio in the #nyc2013 mayoral debate?
— Deena Adel (@deena_adel) September 3, 2013
— eduardosuarez (@eduardosuarez) September 3, 2013
Looks like DeBlasio has a friend in Weiner…perhaps he can be in charge of social networking in the new administration #NYC2013
— Richard Habersham (@rhabersham) September 3, 2013
Weiner’s performance was enough to remind voters that, for all his failings (and there are so, so many), but he remains a natural politician with a strong command of the issues. There is a reason why in a simpler, pre-Carlos Danger era, he was poised to win this race.
It was also a reminder that the primary is less than a week away, and Weiner has never had a job outside of politics. What happens to him when the race ends? Could he get a cable news gig, like Eliot Spitzer? Or angle for a teaching post at CUNY, like David Petraeus?
Maybe Weiner could he convince whoever is elected that he is a strong enough ally to deserve some kind of cabinet post. Maybe that’s what was he was imagining when he helped de Blasio fend off attacks Tuesday night.
Although, to be fair, he did defend John Liu at least once, too, and that guy has an even worse shot at becoming mayor than Weiner himself (just 4 sad percentage points in the polls), so it’s possible he was just focused on appearing as somewhat less of a jerk during the last big televised moment of the campaign.
Send story tips to the author, Tessa Stuart