Anthony Weiner Was Warned: His Close Call With Political Punishment in 2009
While Bloomberg and his circle have stayed mostly mum as Anthony Weiner has melted down, a senior member of the mayor's 2009 election team tells the Voice that "It's pretty clear that driving Weiner out of the race was a good thing for New York" -- and suggests that the Queens pol thought he had reason to fear a more salacious follow-up to the Post's much-mentioned item (in March of 2009), "Weiner's 'Naughty' Hottie$," about foreign models' illegal campaign contributions as the congressman sought to give them access to coveted H1-B visas.
"We didn't have as much at the time he dropped out as he thought we had," the campaign official said, stressing that the campaign's aggressive early shots at Weiner and other hardball tactics were meant to give the Congressman a sense of just how much damage the mayor, with his effectively unlimited resources, could do if he didn't back out of the race he'd been widely expected to enter. That tactic, in which the mayor effectively picked his own opponent, conveniently doubled as a way of selling the press on the inevitability of the mayor's third term after his successful bid to overturn term limits stripped Weiner of what had been his frontrunner status.
The model story and another Post exclusive on missing Congressional votes to play hockey at Chelsea piers, "Weiner's a Pucking Goof-Off," seemed to register the most damage. Weiner and his staff complained openly and bitterly about the cascade of hits, and accused the Bloomberg campaign of planting the hockey item.
"We had a meeting literally every day about how to drive Anthony out of the race," the official said. "We knew with that many smart people at the table we could think of a lot of ideas."
Speaking of unlimited resources, Bloomberg Pollsters Doug Schoen and Bernard Whitman effectively reverse-engineered Weiner's internal polling and then conducted it themselves, the official told the Voice. The mayor's team knew that Weiner was in for sure if he was within 10 points of the mayor, out if he was down 20, and had a tough choice to make it he was between those numbers.
Past its aggressive opposition research -- a hard warning that Weiner somehow ignored in the course of then spending the next several years engaging strangers in sex talk on Facebook and Twitter -- the campaign also brought early pressure to bear on Weiner through more direct tactics aimed in part at getting his personal attention.
Among the tactics the official would discuss on the record were "20 different donors calling in to say, 'don't run,'" an operative "with a video camera" following Weiner around Queens months prior to his self-imposed Memorial Day deadline for entering the race, and online ads aimed at being sure Weiner felt the mayor's presence at all times.
"You can buy digital ads for zip codes and we bought everything in his zip code," the official said. "Every time he turned on his computer, there we were."
Judging from his subsequent years of sexting, there's a lesson there about his computer Weiner didn't learn.