If Wiener did not come right out and say he won't seek the mayoralty, many political insiders say he might as well have. By announcing that he would wait until the end of May to make a decision, many believe he is in effect throwing in the towel, though, of course, Weiner himself denied the rumor in his letter to campaign supporters announcing his changed plans.
In the letter, Weiner, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, said in the coming months he was duty bound to focus on national problems like the reeling economy, not local city issues. Come May, Wiener wrote, he would "look at the lay of the land again and try to determine the best political course." In the meantime, Wiener stated, "you won't see me holding campaign rallies. You won't see me knocking on doors asking for votes."
If Weiner doesn't come knocking, worried city Democrats are now asking, who will?
The congressman's apparent withdrawal has seriously narrowed the mayoral race, in essence, some say, leaving only New York City Comptroller William Thompson as the lone serious Democratic contender to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat-turned-independent who will likely run as a Republican, although Councilman Tony Avella continues to make it known that his hat is still in the ring.
Thompson and Wiener were widely considered to be the only elected officials of any party interested in running for the city's top post with enough name recognition, fundraising clout, and political heft to even challenge Mayor Bloomberg, who has once again assembled the best campaign that money can buy.
Now that Wiener's out, a race between Bloomberg and Thompson could shape into an ugly, lopsided rout considering the mayor's incredible fundraising advantage. Bloomberg, after all, has only to reach into his own pockets to secure tens of millions of campaign dollars.
Bloomberg has already used his vast personal fortune to hire Hillary Clinton's former media strategist, Howard Wolfson, now a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson, Ken Strasma, a top Obama campaign researcher, and several other first-rate political operatives.
The mayor spent roughly $160 million on his first two elections, and his campaign has said it is willing to spend another $80 million or so to ensure he wins reelection, to the frustration of opponents like Thompson and Avella who have called for the mayor to run on his record, not on his wealth. Democrats' pleas to level the playing field and give others at least a fighting chance fell on deaf ears.
No, Bloomberg is willing to spend again and spend big to ensure a third term. His campaign even hinted it was prepared to spend as much as $20 million just to push Weiner out of the race. There's no need for that now, though. Weiner seems to have bowed out for free. Keep the money, mayor, and save it for a rainy day.