The prospect of former Rep. Anthony Weiner staging a comeback by running for New York City mayor, as dim and surreal as it may be, could give the public more than just a new crop of one-liners.
If he were to jump in, Weiner, 48, could elevate the prestige of candidates already in the race -- by showing that maybe they are not so bad by comparison.
The latest chatter about a Weiner run comes from a New York Times Magazine interview in which he discusses his recent polls about whether people will "give me a second chance . . .
"It's now or maybe never for me," he says.
If the answer is now, the next question might be whether there's a seasoned politician better qualified to make his rivals look like paragons of good conduct. It is less than two years since he resigned amid a sexting scandal from the congressional seat he held for 12 years.
Consider City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. She recently drew a harsh newspaper profile for going ballistic in private, though this isn't exactly uncommon among incumbents. But Quinn could come off as a Zen master if you look back at Weiner in 2010, screaming 'roid-rage-style on the House floor.
Compared with Weiner, Bill Thompson would seem intrepid, having at least stepped forward to represent the Democrats in 2009 against Mayor Michael Bloomberg's record-spending re-election campaign. Weiner, who ran second in the 2005 Democratic primary, flinched from a second effort four years later.
And we haven't even detailed the self-destructive acts that won Weiner his everlasting national notoriety less than two years ago.
When Weiner was sending photos of his privates to strangers, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, ex-councilman Sal Albanese and others were at least, by all known accounts, behaving like family men.
Maybe you have problems with Comptroller John Liu's lack of clear explanation for financial actions that put his campaign under federal investigation. Now, that seems like nitpicking compared with Weiner's panicky lie, upon being caught in his Twitter scandal, that someone hacked into his account.
A real loser in a Weiner bid might be the city's public campaign finance system. Under its rules, Weiner has incentive to take his previously built $4 million campaign account and use it this year to receive matching funds from the public.
That said, even novelty candidate Kristin Davis, the madam who ran prostitutes for former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, could move up in the moral standings with Weiner on the scene. She's reportedly running for comptroller as a Libertarian.
Last month, Weiner reported spending $100,000 on polling. Alas, he's told the Times that results were mixed and has suggested a run this year is unlikely.
Too bad for his putative rivals if he balks. He could make them look so much better.