Anthony Weiner’s usually private wife, Huma Abedin, joined her husband on the campaign trail on Sunday, shaking hands, posing for photos and subjecting herself to reporters’ questions for the first time since her husband jumped into the mayors race.
A top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ms. Abedin stood by her husband’s side through his sexting scandal. She appeared relaxed and happy as she and Mr. Weiner made their way through a street fair on West 111th Street and then greeted diners and shoppers along Frederick Douglass Boulevard this afternoon in Harlem–often hand-in-hand.
“This is my wife, Huma,” repeated Mr. Weiner, who proudly introduced his wife again and again. The striking Ms. Abedin was dressed glamorously in a red-and-white patterned dress–coincidentally made famous by First Lady Michelle Obama, who donned the same outfit when her own husband was on the campaign trail.
As usual, the response to Mr. Weiner was enthusiastic as the two shook hands and posed for photos in the hot sun. “You the man! You the man!” one man shouted as he passed him. “You’ve got my vote!” women repeatedly said.
And Ms. Abedin–no stranger to the campaign trail–appeared to be enjoying her husband’s return to public life.
“I am having so much fun,” she told reporters later in the day. “It’s just wonderful to see the response that people have to Anthony. And he’s working hard. And it seems to really be … people seem to be noticing.”
“They’re just being nice to me because you’re around!” Mr. Weiner chimed in–as he would often through the day.
Later, inside Lido, an Italian spot where the couple ordered a pair of Arnold Palmers at the counter and chatted with brunchers, Ms. Abedin admitted that being in the spotlight wasn’t exactly in her comfort zone.
“I prefer to be a private person,” she said. But, she added, “I’m happy to support him. I think he’ll be a great mayor. And I’m having fun doing it.”
While Ms. Abedin hosted a fund-raiser for her husband and appeared in his campaign launch video, the day marked the first time she has actually appeared at public campaign events. But Mr. Weiner–who was repeatedly mistaken for fellow comeback candidate, Eliot Spitzer, during his stops–insisted that his wife’s sudden appearance on the trail was not part of any effort to contrast himself with the disgraced former governor–whose wife has been conspicuously absent from his side.
“It’s not intended to be that way,” said Mr. Weiner, who explained the appearance was driven solely by logistics having to do with their 18-month-old son. “My mother-in-law’s visiting from out-of-town so we have childcare on the weekends. And she seemed eager to do it. And I, of course, was eager to have her,” he said, adding, “It’s very nice and comforting having her around.”
Asked whether she planned to spend more time on the trail, Ms. Abedin sounded genuinely torn.
“I’m a mom. I’ve got my own life and my own profession that I’m very committed to, that I love. And I have my husband who is doing something I want to be supportive of. And I’m very proud of what he’s doing. And so yeah, I want to help him,” she explained. “But you know, it’s like, I’m trying to figure out everything and I think that’s a pretty normal thing that a lot of women find that they have to figure out. But I’m having a good time.”
He, too, seemed to recognize the burden.
“It’s a lot to ask of someone,” he conceded. “Walking down Fifth Avenue and 111th Street in the hot sun is not everyone’s idea of a fun afternoon. I mean, I love it. But you’ve got to ask her,” he said, gesturing to his wife. Still, he went off on a tangent, marveling at Ms. Abedin’s ability to cope with the heat. “She doesn’t seem to notice the heat, though. It’s very weird. She shows no outward signs.”
A reporter was quick to point out that Ms. Abedin’s boss, Ms. Clinton, is also known for her uncanny ability not to sweat even when it’s sweltering.
“I don’t know if it’s the Huma Abedin diet she’s been following of something, I don’t know,” he responded. “She seems to keep her cool in more ways than one.”
And despite their previous issues, the couple appeared at ease with one another, holding hands constantly and bantering back-and-forth.
During a stop at the Harlem Tavern, Mr. Weiner decided to invite the couple to sit down at a table of young women enjoying a late brunch on the outdoor patio. “It’s just a brunch with the girls!” he joked, as he made himself comfortable. “So what are we talking about?”
The conversation quickly turned to scalding Mr. Weiner for failing to take his wife out to dinner the night before.
“This is kind of a date. Campaigning is kind of a date,” Mr. Weiner offered, drawing condemnation from the young women. “It’s a joke. It’s a joke!” he quickly said in defense.
Later, he decided to grant his wife the job of helping to keep his foot out of his mouth.
“Honey …. your role is gonna be to say, ‘He’s joking’ after everything I say,” he said after kiddingly threatening to throw a handful of reporters out of a restaurant. “You found your niche, honey: ‘He’s joking!'”
Mr. Weiner later confessed to the women that campaigning with his wife, who worked on Ms. Clinton’s 2008 presidential run, was also intimidating. “It’s kind of like taking batting practice when Ted Williams is watching,” he said. “She’s done all this stuff so many times.”
And her addition seemed to play especially well with voters who were already fans of her husband’s candidacy.
“I love Anthony Weiner,” said Angel Rodriguez, 37, who said he was thrilled to see the pair at the street fair. “Everyone can make a mistake. If Bill Clinton did it, he can, too.”
Letica Fox, 30, one of the women at the Harlem Tavern table, later raved about Mr. Weiner and his wife.
“He’s totally cool,” she said. “I’m kind of all about the underdog kind of coming back in.”
She was equally impressed with his wife: “She’s cute and young and vibrant. I think she’s great for him.”