Anthony Weiner talked to TPM Wednesday evening about his newly announced mayoral bid, his relationship with his wife’s bosses, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the crowd of reporters camped out in front of his apartment.In the video that kicked off his campaign Tuesday, Weiner emphasized his roots as a “middle class kid in Brooklyn” and vowed to work to make New York the “middle class capital of the world.” He said that theme of fighting for the middle class will be a major focus of his run, as it has throughout his political career.
“I am who I am. You know, when I ran for mayor in 2005 and frankly just about everything I’ve done in my public life has been animated by the notion that, for those who are in the middle class and struggling to make it, things have gotten worse,” Weiner explained. “I’m the same guy and I think that a lot of these challenges have gotten even worse. But I’m not a different person in terms of the things I care about than I was in my whole career.”
Weiner demurred when asked whether the other candidates in the crowded mayoral election are also representing the needs of middle class New Yorkers.
“I’ll leave it to them to characterize their own campaigns,” he said.
Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is a top aide to former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This Clinton connection resulted in substantial speculation about the state of Weiner’s relationship with the Clintons in the wake of the 2011 scandal that ensued when he admitted to sending lewd pictures to multiple women online. Earlier this week, both Bill and Hillary Clinton released statements saying they would not make any endorsement in the race. When we inquired about his relationship with the Clintons and what they thought about his campaign, Weiner said he never discussed the race with them or asked for their support.
“As a matter of fact, I don’t think there’s anyone in public life who I’ve kind of sought out their approval or even much advice. I know that I have to prove myself to my colleagues in government just as much as I do to the rest of New Yorkers,” said Weiner. “I wouldn’t even consider asking the Clintons for an endorsement or support in a race like this. I mean, obviously, the former president and the former secretary of state have bigger fish to fry.”
Bill Clinton did lend his support to another recent mayoral candidate. He recorded a robocall and campaigned with Los Angeles’ Wendy Greuel prior to her defeat by Eric Garcetti Tuesday. However, Weiner isn’t the only Democrat in the New York City mayoral election with ties to the Clintons. Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, managed Hillary’s Senate campaign in 2000.
Though Weiner wouldn’t discuss the details of his internal polling or the reasons he believes he can win, he said he’s confident about his chances. A Quinnipiac poll of the race released Wednesday showed Weiner in second place in the Democratic primary with the support of 15 percent of voters compared to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s 25 percent. If no candidate in the primary earns at least 40 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff between the top two finishers.
Weiner will make his first campaign appearances tomorrow. He spent today inside his Manhattan apartment while a large group of reporters waited outside.
“I feel bad for them,” Weiner said of the media contingent in front of his building. “I have so many calls, it’s not a — it’s not intended to be an insult to them in any way. I had to do about 200 calls including this one.”
Though Weiner did not plan to come down and speak with the reporters, his director of communications, Barbara Morgan, brought them a pizza pie.
“I thought the very least we can do is make sure that they have something to eat,” said Weiner. “It was actually Barbara’s idea. If it were up to me, it would be more on the order of bread and water, but, no I jest. I know that you guys are just doing your job.”