Anthony Weiner's surge in polls dismissed by competitors

Anthony Weiner listens to a question from the

Anthony Weiner listens to a question from the media after courting voters outside a Harlem subway station. (May 23, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

Hold that tweet, warn the strategists for Anthony Weiner's rivals -- and don't call him mayor-in-waiting just yet.

They have obvious motive to say that. Contributions and endorsements are harder to get when a newcomer to the race starts eating other candidates' lunch. And Weiner's foes want to project confidence after two polls this week showed the former Democratic congressman at or near the front of the mayoral pack a mere five weeks after announcing his candidacy.

But in predicting, perhaps wishfully, that Weiner will fade, the competitors' camps cite portions of those same polls from Marist College and Quinnipiac University.

For starters, Quinnipiac puts Weiner at 17 percent, with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at 19 percent and former comptroller Bill Thompson at 16 percent.

Since Weiner started out at 15 percent in April, his two-point "jump" to today falls within the survey's 2.8 percentage point margin of error. This suggests he hasn't moved the needle since he declared. Weiner's top-tier status comes from Quinn falling steadily since February, and while Thompson, for the first time, registers a significant 6-point rise, according to Quinnipiac.

Then there are Weiner's "unfavorables." The Marist poll, which had Weiner passing Quinn to become "front-runner," showed him with "unfavorable" ratings from 48 percent of whites and 52 percent of Jews. African-Americans and Latinos gave Weiner favorability ratings of 60 percent and 50 percent, respectively, yet a large majority also said they're following the race "not very closely" or "not at all."

In other words, Weiner's support looks less than fervent.

One Quinn loyalist said: "Remember, no one is on TV yet, so all people are seeing is the celebrity factor. Once his record and what he did is engaged, he'll deflate." Asked a Thompson backer: "Will Weiner be able to withstand the enhanced media scrutiny that comes from front-runner status?"

And still, only two years after he tearfully resigned from the House after being famously caught lying about his Twitter habits, Weiner has undoubtedly emerged as a factor in the scrum to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg in January.

While rivals credit him as a savvy marketer of "middle-class" appeal, and an energetic campaigner, it is also true that other Democrats have mostly shied away from blasting Weiner on what gave him his greatest notoriety. So far, that is.

Quinn's ratings fell while she was under attack from other Democrats. But Weiner has been criticized only sporadically. Team Thompson has been suggesting Weiner hurts Quinn and Bill de Blasio, not Thompson, while Quinn's camp suggests she'd be able to defeat Weiner in a runoff between them.

Running in the Republican primary, Joseph Lhota took the gloves off this week.

"It's the same old story with Anthony Weiner," Lhota said in a fundraising letter to conservative donors. "First, he lies to the public, the press and his family. And then he makes up his own facts. This is a pattern that is simply unacceptable. To make matters worse, it appears that what he is doing is working. . . . It's up to us to stop him."

But another GOP candidate, George McDonald, calls this a flip-flop from when Lhota said of Weiner on April 15: "I think he raises the level of the debate all the way around and I urge him to enter the race." McDonald, who gets little media attention, has attacked Weiner all along.