NEW YORK (AP) — Mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn suddenly finds herself in demand on national political television talk shows, and they all want to ask her the same question: Should Anthony Weiner drop out of the race?
Quinn, the pugnacious City Council speaker who has now vaulted ahead of the former congressman in the wake of his latest sexting scandal, answers questions about her embattled rival the same way: She touts her own track record while carefully disparaging his "pattern of reckless behavior."
But, unlike other Democratic rivals, Quinn has always stopped short of calling for Weiner to bow out. Truth is, she may not want him to go anywhere.
Weiner's recent travails have ended up giving Quinn much more valuable media exposure, allowing her to portray herself as the "adult" in the race and contrast her leadership to her married rival's sordid behavior. Staying in the race could make Weiner the perfect foil, observers say.
"The debacle that we've seen over the last week and a half now, is going to — could potentially — help Quinn if she's able to embrace it," New York University political communications professor Jeanne Zaino said Wednesday.
Quinn's campaign has taken pains to contrast her legislative scorecard while ruling the City Council for seven years to Weiner's thin track record in Congress, where in 12 years he passed only one bill.
And political experts love Quinn's chances against Weiner if they are the two candidates to make it into a runoff, which could happen if no one achieves 40 percent of the vote in the Sept. 10 primary.
"That's the matchup she wants," said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College. "Her strengths look the best against him, especially since he has again revealed himself to be a self-destructive candidate."
The potential benefits for Quinn if Weiner drops out are more difficult to discern since there's little overlap in their pools of voter support. A Quinnipiac College poll released this week shows Quinn's support rising only from 27 percent to 30 percent of likely Democratic voters if Weiner drops out.
That poll, which surveyed 446 likely voters, had Quinn followed by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio at 21 percent, ex-city comptroller Bill Thompson at 20 percent and Weiner at 16 percent.
Quinn, who's looking to become the city's first female and openly gay mayor, has continued a brisk campaign schedule amid the latest Weiner revelations. She's trotted out the support of women's groups and unveiled her first TV ad a week before the scandal broke.
The final line of the 30-second ad is a clear shot at Weiner, who talks incessantly about the middle class.
"I'm Christine Quinn," she says. "While others talk about fighting for the middle class, I've been doing it."
Quinn's resurgence has come as Weiner's campaign has been besieged by questions from the media and voters about exchanging sexually explicit messages with women online even after that behavior forced him from Congress.
On Wednesday, Weiner's chief spokeswoman apologized for an expletive-laced tirade aimed at a former intern who wrote an unflattering first-person article about her experience working on Weiner's campaign.
In stark contrast to Quinn, de Blasio and Thompson have forcefully called for the scandal-scarred candidate to bow out. Neither candidate had climbed higher than third in any poll before Weiner was revealed to have continued sending illicit messages even after he resigned from Congress in 2011.
Political analysts say de Blasio was most hurt by Weiner's earlier success, since the two men cut a similar political persona: progressive, feisty, with their base of support found in the boroughs outside Manhattan. De Blasio's second-place showing in this week's Quinnipiac poll is by far his strongest in the race so far.
Thompson, the race's only black candidate, also would appear to benefit from Weiner's departure.
Thompson's team has spoken openly of its hope to win decisively among black voters, yet Weiner has remained the most popular candidate among them. Weiner pulled in 24 percent of black voters in the Quinnipiac poll, and Thompson would seem poised to grab more of them than de Blasio or Quinn.
Weiner has vowed to stay in the race to succeed independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg.