By Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New disclosures of explicitly sexual online chats have cost former Congressman Anthony Weiner the lead in the New York City mayor's race and helped City Council Speaker Christine Quinn pull ahead among Democratic voters, according to a poll released on Thursday.
The poll results came on the same day Weiner admitted at a news conference that he may have exchanged sexually charged messages with as many as three women in the two years since he resigned from Congress amid the first revelations of such behavior.
"I can tell you these things are behind me and they were the moment I got in the race," said Weiner, estimating he shared racy online exchanges with a total of six to 10 women over the years.
The woman behind the latest sexting revelations, identified as Sydney Leathers, 23, spoke to the CBS-syndicated newsmagazine "Inside Edition" in an interview that was slated to air Thursday evening.
"Stop lying, stop embarrassing his wife, and get help," is what Leathers would like to tell Weiner, according to a partial transcript of the interview.
She said she and Weiner had vowed they loved one another, but she felt "physically ill ... disgusted by him" after seeing Weiner appear with his wife Huma Abedin, an aide to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a news conference on Tuesday to pledge he would remain in the mayor's race despite the revelations.
A poll taken since the latest revelations surfaced on Tuesday shows Weiner's lead in the mayoral race has evaporated. Less than two months ahead of the September 10 Democratic primary, Quinn leads with 25 percent among Democrats polled and Weiner trails her by nine percentage points, according to the NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll.
Weiner, who led the field with 25 percent in June, has fallen to 16 percent.
The poll was held on Wednesday, making it the first survey of New York voters since Weiner acknowledged that his sexting continued even after he resigned from the U.S. Congress in June 2011, admitting then that he used Twitter and other social media to send lewd pictures of himself to women he met online.
"Christine Quinn has reclaimed the front-runner status. Anthony Weiner has fallen back into the pack," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.
For a time, Weiner, 48, appeared to be moving past the scandal. Within weeks of launching his campaign in May, he had pulled ahead of Quinn, the race's early front-runner who, if elected, would be the city's first female and first lesbian mayor.
That changed this week, when a gossip website called The Dirty published a series of sexually explicit messages and images that an unnamed young woman said she received from Weiner, including pictures of his penis.
On Tuesday, Weiner admitted the messages were real and said he had continued interacting with women online as recently as last summer - more than a year after his resignation.
Now, nearly half of Democrats say Weiner's online activity will impact their vote. His popularity has also hit an all-time low for this campaign season, with just 30 percent of Democrats saying they have a positive view of him and more than half reporting a negative view.
In the latest poll, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former city comptroller Bill Thompson are tied for third place with 14 percent, while city Comptroller John Liu trails with 7 percent.
New York Democrats were closely divided on the question of whether Weiner should stay in the race, with 43 percent saying he should bow out and 47 percent saying he should stay in. But when asked if Weiner deserves a second chance, fewer than half said he did - down from 59 percent who said that a month ago.
"Clearly, redemption overload has set in," Miringoff said in an interview.
The poll showed a far rosier picture for Eliot Spitzer, another New York politician whose political career was nearly ended by a sex scandal.
Spitzer, who resigned as New York governor in 2008 after admitting he paid prostitutes for sex, is now leading the city comptroller's race with 49 percent of the Democratic vote. His main opponent in the race, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer follows with 32 percent.
Just four in ten New York Democrats said Weiner would do a good or excellent job as mayor, while nearly six in ten said Spitzer would do a good or excellent job as comptroller, the poll found.
The telephone survey of 551 city Democrats had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent.
(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Carol Bishopric, Gary Hill)
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