Here, though, Mr. Weiner was on a different mission, needing to convince his influential, jaded audience that he was serious—a potential mayor, rather than a candidate with a talent for grabbing attention.
When he spoke of his policy proposals—and at the ABNY breakfast, the topic was health care—he threw out numbers with abandon: “Every $1 spent on prenatal care saves $7 later.” “A 10 percent reduction in Medicare spending in New York State is a $400 million savings.” “Paperwork is 25 percent of what we spend for health care.” “There are 1.2 million New Yorkers who have no health care at all.” His health care plan—which is based upon pooling together the small business owners in New York into one sort of mass employer group—would save “$550 to $880 million.”
Whether or not the numbers are accurate—opponents grumble that Mr. Weiner’s nice, round figures are designed more for popular digestibility than precision—they’ve become an indispensable part of his shtick, lending a degree of authority and imbuing him with what one audience member described as a sense that he is “by far the most intelligent and critical” of the Democratic candidates. (Mr. Weiner’s most formidable primary opponents are likely to be City Comptroller Bill Thompson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.)
Mr. Weiner can be dismissive and blunt with people he disagrees with, and doesn’t forget a perceived slight. (He agreed to talk to The Observer for this piece only reluctantly after registering, through Mr. Caplin, his displeasure with a profile of him published in this newspaper in 2005.)
“He’s sharp and acerbic, but he has a good sense of humor,” said Councilman Lew Fidler, whose district includes parts of Mr. Weiner’s. “You don’t want to be exchanging jabs with him, and I’ve seen him get into people’s faces.”
That can also extend to his staff. His chief of staff, legislative director and communications director have all quit in the past six months, less than a year before Mr. Weiner will start campaigning in earnest for mayor. One former staffer told The Observer, “He doesn’t listen to his staff and he doesn’t believe in teamwork—and so people leave him.”
(A new chief of staff, Geoff Plague, recently started in Mr. Weiner’s Washington office.)
Mr. Weiner isn’t married and has no children. (He says he’s currently seeing someone “from time to time,” though he declined to identify this person.) And he seems to have few hobbies outside of sports—he plays on a local ice hockey team at Chelsea Piers and is a lifelong Mets fan. “After talking about how I’m close enough to Shea Stadium to walk, I finally did it this summer,” he said. “And on 108th Street, there’s like four really great empanada places, and I did like three of them. I felt like a foodie, and that’s not my thing at all. I felt like New York magazine.”
He also plays in the annual Congressional baseball game, Democrats vs. Republicans, seven innings of fast-pitch hardball in a Double-A stadium. “We take it very, very seriously,” Mr. Weiner said. “We practice for weeks.”
He watches little television, choosing to Tivo The Daily Show (Jon Stewart was a post-college roommate), the Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild, and The Dog Whisperer. “I love The Dog Whisperer,” he said. “I’ve tried their techniques.”
“He has cats,” said Mr. Caplin.
“Cats don’t like it,” said Mr. Weiner.