Weiner has been a celebrity on the stump. I watched as people thronged to take pictures with him at the 111th Street Boys Old Timers festival on a recent Sunday, partly out of support for him, and partly to take home a new experience, a souvenir of a hot day whose highlight might otherwise have been time with friends and an $8 plate of arroz con gandules with yucca and roasted pork.
Weiner is a lover of people. And people appreciated the love, returned it in kind. Eight million people in the naked city, and most of them feel neglected by their politicians, most of the time. There's something to be said for someone who just spends time on the ground. Someone who is not a billionaire, was not complicit in the billoinaire's overturning of term-limits, is not -- as Ann Valdez, a housing activist from Coney Island, described Quinn -- "Bloomberg in a skirt."
Weiner wasn't like the other politicians who came in an SUV, hopped out and gave a speech, then dashed back in and drove away, people told me. "He hung out, he spoke, he visited with the vendors," observed Andrew Troup-Major at Lida's, saying he liked the way Weiner actually spent time at the city's gay-pride festival.
Weiner believes in being there. At the 111th Steet festival, he spoke briefly in Spanish, saying the day was for music, not for politicians. "You gonna be all right, Tony!" Angel Rodrigues of East Harlem called out to him. Forgiveness was an easy generosity. "So what? Everybody makes mistakes," he said of Weiner's past. "He was seven terms. He was good. He was for the working people," affirmed Malik Kileen-Roacher of 102nd Street, who was still deciding between Weiner and deBlasio. David Aviles of the Bronx liked Weiner's frankness. "All politics is full of crap," he said. "He admitted to his mistakes and he mans up," chimed in Sonia Vasquez, also of the Bronx. She felt special sympathy, she said, because she knew what kind of trouble social media can cause. "I sent a picture of my boob to the wrong person," she said. It happens.
Weiner was in his element. The patter and prattle, the questions and compliments and expressions of delight and surprise, the hugs and kisses and close-talking pleasantries, all of it was fun.
But the Weiner operation was always fairly lean, like the candidate. It didn't have a press secretary and a communications director and a bunch of messaging consultants. It had one media aide, a former city education department spokesperson, plus whatever help she could get from interns.
That was always the mystery about his campaign. It lacked the trappings of a traditional campaign apparatus. It lacked the ground operation and deep institutional connections of the Quinn campaign.
Now it's clear why -- he was a momentum candidate waiting for the moment when it would all fall apart (and probably also hoping that moment would never come).