NEW YORK CITY — It looks like Weiner is on the rise.
Ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was forced to step down following a sexting scandal, would come in second if the Democratic primary for mayor were held today, a surprising new poll finds.
The NBC New York-Marist Poll released late Tuesday — the first since Weiner's re-emergence following a magazine article — found Weiner with 15 percent of the vote, trailing only frontrunner City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who took 26 percent.
"Right now, a Weiner candidacy attracts double-digit support in the Democratic primary,” said Lee Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, in a statement announcing the findings. "He makes it even more difficult for any of the Democratic contenders to reach the needed 40 percent to avoid a run-off."
More than 20 percent of voters remain undecided, the poll found.
Weiner has been publicly flirting with the idea of launching a comeback tour for less than a week now, granting a series of interviews in which he has attempted to make amends two years after he admitted to sending lewd messages to a slew of women and then lying about it.
Weiner clearly has obstacles. Nearly half of Democrats — 46 percent — said they didn't want to see him run for office, versus 40 percent who said they did.
But his numbers have improved dramatically in recent months, the pollsters noted, with 45 percent of Democrats now saying they view him favorably, up from just 34 percent two months ago.
More than a third of Democrats — 37 percent — said they thought Weiner had emerged a changed man from the scandal. And 46 percent said they were open-minded about Weiner and would consider voting for him.
The poll also found that without Weiner in the race, Quinn's numbers have dipped in recent weeks as she faces mounting criticism from her rivals and a TV attack ad. While still commanding, Quinn's lead dropped by seven percentage points, from 37 percent in February to 30 percent today, the poll found.
The results mirror a Quinnipiac poll released last week, which found Quinn's share of the Democratic vote down 5 percent from late February, when 37 percent of voters polled said Quinn was their top pick.
Without Weiner in the race, de Blasio's share of the vote stood at 15 percent, versus 14 percent for Thompson and 11 percent for Liu, whose campaign is under federal investigation. However, only 34 percent of Democrats who expressed a preference said they were firmly committed to their candidate of choice.
Observers and strategists have been split over the potential impact of a Weiner entry into the race. Some have argued he would most likely siphon voters from de Blasio's base of outer-borough, middle-class ethnic voters, while others have argued he would most hurt Quinn.
The pollsters said the latest numbers suggested Weiner would impact the frontrunners more or less equally, stealing four points from Quinn and de Blasio and three points from Thompson.
"Quinn in crisis," declared one person close to the campaign in a response to Quinn's 7 percent point dip. "Delaying and watering down paid sick days and the latest scandals involving Council member items are reminding voters of her troubling record — a record they will be hearing much more about between now and September. A runoff is now assured."
Earlier polls had showed Quinn inching toward the 40 percent of votes she needs to avoid a run-off with the second-place finisher in September's Democratic primary, where she is most vulnerable.
Quinn's team, meanwhile, stuck with their message.
"New Yorkers are going to vote for mayor based on who has the strongest record of delivering results and who they can trust to lead on the issues most important to the middle class. That person is Chris Quinn," her campaign spokesman Mike Morey said.
Weiner did not respond to requests for comment.
The survey of 1,127 New Yorkers, conducted from April 11 through April 15, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent. Questions that were directed only at Democrats have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent.