Responding to criticism from Quinn, Weiner says ‘traction’ and also ‘underdog’

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Weiner. (Azi Paybarah via Flickr)
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Rep. Anthony Weiner is totally fine with this morning's poll showing Council Speaker Christine Quinn leading the Democratic mayoral field by a comfortable margin, he says.

"Look, I don’t care what any poll says," said Weiner, after delivering a talk on affordable housing at LeFrak City. "I’m the underdog in this race. I mean, I have been since the moment I got in."

That "underdog" designation is a subjective thing, of course. Anyone running for office so soon after an embarrassing scandal and bungled cover-up, as Weiner is doing, might well be considered an underdog. But the field of Democrats Weiner is running against is not overwhelming, and public polls showed him, almost from the day he declared his candidacy, running at or near the front of it.

Weiner said he doesn't mind either way, "because I’m fighting for a lot of people here in New York City that I want to give a voice to. It's a worthy fight to have, for the middle class and those struggling to make it."

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Weiner and Quinn never really bother to define "middle class"—perhaps because it's a category most people like to believe they belong to, even if they don't—but it's a group both are targeting ceaselessly in their messaging.

This morning, Quinn unleashed the primary's first ad campaign, one that seemed to be targeting Weiner, without naming him, as someone who talks a big game without delivering.

"While others talk about fighting for the middle class, I've been doing it," she says in the ad.

Today, in that basement community room at LeFrak City, WABC's Dave Evans asked Weiner if he had any response.

"Well look, you know, I’ve been focused like a laser beam on the middle class and those struggling to make it," he said. "My entire campaign conversation has been built around that, as it was when I ran last time. ... If you believe things are OK and that things are going alright and that the people that are doing the job now are doing just fine for the middle class, you probably don’t want to vote for me."

A few minutes later, a reporter asked Weiner if he had any further response to the criticism coming from Quinn, among others, that his mention of Nazi Germany in a discussion of stop-and-frisk was inappropriate.

He suggested that he was only being criticized because he was doing well, underdog or not.

"What happens is when you start getting some traction and voters start being interested in what you have to say, your opponents revert to the old politics of trying to attack you and trying to distract you,” he said.