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Polls: Weiner Has Surprising Support From Women

Polls: Weiner Has Surprising Support From Women

By Scott Conroy - June 27, 2013

When Anthony Weiner entered the New York City mayor's race last month, few observers expected the disgraced former congressman to become a front-runner to succeed Michael Bloomberg.

Fewer still anticipated that Weiner would poll particularly well among women.

But two surveys released this week show that the married Weiner, who resigned from Congress in 2011 after first lying about and then admitting to lewd online behavior, has surged into the top tier of a crowded Democratic field and that his support among female voters is robust.

A Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday afternoon found the race to be a statistical three-way tie with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at 19 percent, Weiner at 17 percent, and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson at 16 percent.

All three were well below the 40 percent threshold required to avoid a runoff, but the most eye-catching numbers were in the poll’s cross-tabs that break down voter preferences by gender.

Weiner trailed Quinn among men, 23 percent to 19 percent. But among women, they were tied for the lead, with each candidate garnering 16 percent of support.

And in a separate Wall Street Journal/NBC 4/Marist poll released Tuesday, Weiner actually leads Quinn among all Democrats by a margin of 25 percent to 20 percent, and he also bested her among women -- though by a smaller margin.

Weiner’s robust showing among that group of voters against the race’s only major female candidate is perhaps the most significant and surprising development in a still heavily unsettled race.

According to New York-based Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein, some of Weiner’s strength thus far can be explained by the outsized media attention he has garnered in a campaign relatively lacking in fireworks and dynamic personalities.

“He pops because he says things that cut through the clatter,” Gerstein said of Weiner. “That said, I think it’s a very troubling indicator for Christine Quinn -- and to some degree it reflects that her campaign is not only not breaking through, it’s not communicating to women voters any sense of solidarity and that they should embrace her as a path-breaker.”

Gerstein drew a comparison between Quinn’s inability to build a lead among women to Hillary Clinton’s struggles in the early days of her 2008 presidential bid. When the then-New York senator was ahead in that race’s preliminary stages, she placed much of her campaign’s focus on passing the “commander-in-chief test,” perhaps at the expense of solidifying support among her presumed core voters.

“She was looking past the primaries to the general election, and a lot of women didn’t feel an emotional connection to her campaign,” Gerstein said of Clinton. “I don’t think Speaker Quinn is looking past the primary, but I think the basic similarity is that she has not overtly spoken to women voters and made her campaign a cause for them.”

As was the case in Clinton’s 2008 run, Quinn’s mayoral campaign is potentially historic, since she is vying to become both the first female and first openly gay mayor of New York City.

Quinn does not lack endorsements from women’s groups. She received the official backing of both the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women and the group dedicated to electing pro-choice women candidates, EMILY’s List.

And a source connected with the Quinn campaign suggested that more help is on the way.

“All the major women’s groups are backing her,” the source said. “I think people will see in short order some other very high-profile women’s groups who are backing her.”

But this week’s polls make clear that Quinn, who had long been the perceived front-runner, has work to do in shoring up what was expected to be a key advantage among female voters.

On the bright side for her, 41 percent of Democratic voters polled by Quinnipiac viewed Quinn favorably while just 36 percent viewed her unfavorably. Weiner’s favorability, meanwhile, remained underwater with 37 percent viewing him favorably and 43 percent unfavorably.

And in the Marist poll, Quinn led Weiner in what appears to be an increasingly likely primary runoff race by a margin of 44 percent to 42 percent.

Once media coverage of the campaign picks up and voters begin paying closer attention as the race heads into the fall, some of Weiner’s advantages as a headline-generating candidate may fade. But it appears clear that Quinn will have to be more aggressive in courting the female vote in the weeks and months ahead. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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