Weiner Rejects Calls to Drop Mayoral Bid

NEW YORK -

Anthony Weiner pressed ahead with his campaign for New York City mayor Wednesday, brushing off growing calls from rivals and newspapers to drop out as a new poll shows him clearly in the lead in the Democratic field.

“I have posited this whole campaign on a bet, and that is that, at the end of the day, citizens are more interested in the challenge they face in their lives than in anything that I have done, embarrassing, in my past,” he told an encampment of reporters as he left his Manhattan home in the morning.

“This is not about me” but about voters, he said, and headed for his campaign office.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday afternoon — which was taken before the latest reports surfaced — put Weiner atop the field at 26 percent, followed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn with 22 percent support and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson with 20 percent.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is at 15 percent, a jump from previous polls which had him languishing at about 10 percent — and Comptroller John Liu has 7 percent.

Shortly after a hastily arranged news conference Tuesday evening, in which Weiner defiantly introduced himself as “Anthony Weiner, Democratic candidate for mayor of the city of New York,” two of the city’s major newspapers, The New York Times and the Daily News, said the 48-year-old Democrat had exhausted his chances.

At least three of his mayoral opponents, de Blasio and former City Councilman Sal Albanese, both Democrats, and billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, a Republican, said he should drop out.

“Anthony’s presence in this race has become a never-ending sideshow that is distracting us from the debate of the serious issues of this election,” said de Blasio, who set up a petition on his site for people to demand Weiner exit the race.

Weiner dismissed the calls for him to drop out, saying he wasn’t surprised his opponents wanted him out.

Democratic strategists based in New York and Washington, where Weiner served seven terms in Congress before resigning in 2011, said there are few external means of pressuring Weiner to drop out.

Weiner has nearly $5 million to spend on the campaign, allowing him to mount a vigorous defense. Also, he was not particularly close to his colleagues in the congressional delegation, the strategists said, so he might be unmoved if they urged him to exit the race.

If he were to pull out, the survey shows that Quinn would regain her lead with 30 percent, followed by Thompson at 26 percent and de Blasio at 21 percent.

The polls show high negatives for the top-tier candidates, meaning that the more voters get to know who is running, the more they like or dislike them.

Quinn’s negatives are the highest, with 31 percent of voters saying they would definitely not vote for her, followed by Weiner with 28 percent. Thompson has the smallest negatives at 5 percent, followed by de Blasio at 7 percent.

The numbers spill out onto the ballot as well. The poll finds that if Thompson were to make the runoff, he would beat both Weiner and Quinn by double digits.

In the quiet Republican primary, Joe Lhota, a former chief of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, leads with 49 percent to Catsimatidis’s 35 percent. This poll, the first with such a high percentage of voters responding with a definite candidate, indicates that GOP voters are beginning to take notice and decide whom they are backing.

With reporting by The Associated Press.