By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — City pols held their tongues Tuesday after Rep. Anthony Weiner's stunning admission that he had sent lewd images of himself to a half-dozen young women and lied about it to his wife and the public.
Asked to weigh in on Weiner's scandal, officials including Mayor Michael Bloomberg preferred to steer clear of the topic and let voters make the call.
"It's hard to believe given the coverage that all of the press has given this situation that any voters in his district aren't familiar with the situation. They will have an opportunity to express themselves in one year and four months from now," Bloomberg told reporters at an unrelated press conference when asked whether Weiner should resign.
"In the meantime, I keep saying, this country has lots of very big problems that maybe we should all focus on," he added, refusing to take additional questions on the topic.
Asked at the same press conference whether the admission will help her expected bid for mayor, Quinn instead offered her sympathy.
"I feel badly for him and his family," she said. "They're in my thoughts. And I hope that he and his family are able to resolve all of these matters as quickly as possible in a way that works for him and his family. That's the most important thing."
She later dodged a question about whether Weiner should resign.
Weiner, who has earned national headlines and respect from many in the party for his spirited defenses of healthcare reform and the 9/11 victims' compensation bill, has long been considered a front-runner in the 2013 race for mayor.
An early NY1-Marist Poll from April of potential Democratic candidates showed him leading the pack, with 18 percent of the Democratic vote.
Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, current Comptroller John Liu and Quinn trailed slightly behind, with Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer placing in single digits.
Lui, de Blasio and Stringer all declined to comment on the scandal Tuesday through their spokesmen. Even actor Matt Damon put his endorsement on hold, announcing Monday that a fundraiser he'd been scheduled to co-host with Weiner had been postponed in light of the bombshell.
But observers say it's only natural for officials to steer clear of a scandal's fallout until the dust finally settles.
"Politicians are risk-averse so they're gauging what their constituents are thinking," top Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.
"Frankly, nobody knows what the outcome will be. Therefore no one knows what the best position will be," he said.
An early poll by Survey USA Today for WABC-TV published Tuesday found 46 percent of those polled think Weiner should resign, with Republicans and Independents favoring resignation by a margin of five to three.
Asked what impact the admission would have on Weiner's chances of becoming mayor, 43 percent said they would vote against him no matter who's on the ballot, while 46 percent said it's too soon to say.
Weiner said Monday he understood why others might be reluctant to stand by his side.
"I don't begrudge anybody for not leaping to my defense," he said.
Still, he said he hoped voters would look past the scandal to his congressional record.
"I've worked for the people of my district for 13 years and politics for 20 years and I hope that they see fit to see this in the light that it is — which is a deeply regrettable mistake," he said.
"I'm going to work very hard to win back their trust."
Even before the shocking revelation, many observers believed the scandal would likely thwart Weiner's chances of ever being mayor.
Now there's little doubt.
"Not a prayer," said Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, who ruled out Weiner's chances completely.
"I think it cooks him. I think it absolutely wipes him out for being mayor," he said.
Still, observers say that unless it comes out that Weiner broke the law, he remains a strong contender to be re-elected as congressman in his home district, which covers Brooklyn and Queens.
"Bet on Anthony Weiner hanging on as long as he can," Sheinkopf said.
"This guy is not going quietly into the night."