Did Weiner Plan Twittergate?
A far-fetched but plausible alternate reality for the mayoral candidate
By Tom Allon
Imagine that for more than a decade you've been plotting to become Mayor of New York City and you've been blocked from that path by the wealthiest man in town.
You're a reasonably well-known congressman, but your name probably won't resonate in Staten Island or with voters in Harlem or Brownsville or Bedford Stuyvesant.
You have limited campaign dollars to spend to reach 8.2 million potential voters and you need to do something that'll get your name recognition sky-high.
Then one day it comes to you in an epiphany: what if I commit a sexless, high-profile indiscretion that'll surely create a feeding frenzy on social media and in the tabloids?
Sure, it could lead to a year or two in the political wilderness seeking penance, but everyone knows that Americans -- and New Yorkers -- are suckers for a penitent comeback story.
Heck, even my political hero, Bill Clinton, became known as the Comeback Kid, and his sexual peccadillos -- much more egregious than my planned social media tweeting of my private parts -- didn't get in the way of his ascent to the presidency.
Wow, Anthony Weiner thinks to himself, this is a very bold and risky move. But it just might work. I'll achieve universal name recognition, skip that boring and tedious run-up campaign in 2012 and as an extra bonus get to spend real quality time with my newborn son.
While the above conspiracy theory seems far-fetched, I've recently wondered whether this whole rollout by Anthony Weiner was all carefully planned two years ago.
Because so far, with Weiner vaulting past long-time New York pols Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson in the polls, the "Twittergate" scandal has given Anthony Weiner tens of millions of dollars of free exposure (whoops, sorry to resort to an easy pun there, but there's no better word).
Mike Bloomberg spent a hundred million dollars on each campaign, give or take, to win in 2001, 2005 and 2009. Mark Green, who has run so many times for office in New York that I've lost count, said to me in 2009 when he was planning one last electoral stab at Public Advocate: "My name recognition is 90 percent. Do you know how much money you have to spend to get that high name recognition? Bloomberg type money."
Well, not if you're Anthony Weiner circa 2013. Every move of his "reality show" campaign seems to draw media attention, even the color of his pants at the Gay Pride Parade.
When I was running for Mayor last year, I used to jokingly say that I probably had to announce that I was going to light myself on fire in Times Square to get throngs of media to listen to my policy ideas.
Not so with the crafty and media savvy Weiner.
Universal name recognition may get you into the top tier in the July polls and maybe even into the mayoral run-off in September, but it is no guarantee of victory.
Just ask Mark Green, the once "almost Mayor" of 2001 and the 90 percent name recognition guy in 2009.
Not all name recognition is positive. Anthony Weiner could learn that the hard way this fall.
But wouldn't it be a stroke of cynical genius if the Weiner circus was all a planned mayoral strategy?
Tom Allon, a former Liberal Party-backed candidate for Mayor, is the president of City and State media. Questions or comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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