Baldwin could be winner in Weiner scandal

Anthony Weiner, the Congressman embroiled in the Twitter sex scandal, yesterday faced mounting pressure from his fellow Democrats to resign, as the lewdest picture yet hit the internet, this one purporting to display his private parts, aroused and unconcealed.

At the same time, a new and poignant dimension has emerged with news that Huma Abedin, Mr Weiner's wife of just a year and a close aide of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is in the early stages of pregnancy.

And not a single prominent Democrat has uttered a word in the Congressman's support since the scandal erupted last week. Instead, two former chairmen of the party's National Committee, as well as his influential colleague, Allyson Schwartz, in charge of recruiting Democratic candidates, have called on him to step down.

Harry Reid, Senate majority leader and the most powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, has cut Mr Weiner loose, and Nancy Pelosi, the party's leader in the House, has urged a full-scale ethics investigation to establish whether his virtual relationships with six women broke Congressional rules, for instance, whether he used government email for some of his racy communications.

Even if he does not resign, Mr Weiner's career is hanging by a thread. Speculation is growing that his Brooklyn seat could disappear at the next election, one of the two that New York state must lose as a result of the 2010 census.

His hopes of succeeding Michael Bloomberg as New York mayor are also in ruins. In yet another celebrity twist to the affair, the actor Alec Baldwin has hinted he might run. But as Baldwin noted yesterday, again on Twitter: "It's a long way till November 2013."

But Mr Weiner seems determined to tough things out, reiterating yesterday that he does not plan to resign, insisting he has broken no laws. It also helps that the House is not in session. But one close associate reported him as "conflicted", and such is the anger within his own party that the pressure may prove irresistible.

For one thing, while the Congressman's ability and his readiness to get in the ring with Republicans are admired and appreciated by colleagues, he seems to have few friends.

In political terms, Democratic leaders are furious at how the scandal dominates the headlines to the exclusion of virtually all else, at the very moment when they seemed to have Republicans on the ropes over the latter's controversial proposals to reform Medicare.

Also fuelling those headlines has been speculation about the future of his marriage. News that his wife was pregnant was first reported on Wednesday evening by The New York Times, while she was out of the country, accompanying Ms Clinton on a four-country tour of Africa.

Even before that, Ms Abedin, daughter of an Indian father and Pakistani mother, had been attracting huge media attention as Washington's latest humiliated political wife, exotic, well-connected and mysterious.

Mr Weiner insists that the couple will stay together, but Ms Abedin was notably absent when her husband confessed all in a circus-like news conference at a Manhattan hotel on Monday. Thus far she has made no public comment on the scandal.

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