Teddy Davis reports:
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., joked Thursday that he would have given billionaire Mike Bloomberg a real run for his money if he had gone forward with plans to run for mayor of New York.
“Oh, I would have beaten him like a rented mule,” said Weiner while breaking a smile.
Turning more serious, Weiner said he is “comfortable” that he made “the right decision” to pass on the race given all that is going on in Washington with health-care reform.
Weiner’s “rented mule” comment came during an appearance on ABC News’ “Top Line.” The New York congressman was asked if he would have run closer to Bloomberg than City Comptroller Billy Thompson, a Democrat who trails Bloomberg by a 16-point margin, according to a poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University.
In the Quinnipiac poll, Thompson, who was endorsed by Weiner at the end of May, trails Bloomberg 52 – 36 among New York City likely voters.
Conservative Party candidate Stephen Christopher has 2 percent, with 9 percent undecided.
Bloomberg leads 75 – 12 percent among Republicans and 61 – 25 percent among independent voters, while Democrats split 46 – 46 percent.
Although he was willing to engage on the New York mayor’s race, Weiner was tight-lipped on the situation that New York Gov. David Paterson (D) finds himself in.
Asked if Paterson should heed the White House’s call to step aside in next year’s gubernatorial race in favor of the more popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Weiner sidestepped the question.
“I have enough trouble with my own reelection and focusing on what’s going on here in Washington,” said Weiner.
He then quipped: “I also have no comment on his facial hair -- which is a reference which will be completely obscure to anyone who is not in New York politics.”
(Paterson showed up at a meeting on Wednesday having shaved the mustache he began sporting only three weeks ago).
On the question of whether the U.S. should send more troops to Afghanistan, Weiner said it is important for President Obama to take his time and get it right.
“I think it’s very important that we realize many of us in Congress when we’re having conversations about Afghanistan are doing so without having a real plan from the president in hand,” said Weiner. “I would rather he take a little longer and get it right.”
“I think he’s got a heavy lift in Congress,” Weiner added, referring to Obama. “I think there are many people on both the Left and the Right who are concerned that the present dynamic is so unsustainable it’s leading to a place that’s going to be more difficult to go with the amped-up strategy that I think Gen. McChrystal wants.”
Weiner thinks the president is leaning towards changing strategy and limiting the U.S. mission, a move the New York congressman is inclined to support.
“It does seem to me, if I were reading the tea leaves, that he’s very seriously thinking about not going all in but perhaps modifying by having some limited mission,” said Weiner. “But I want to wait for the president, I mean, I think that he’s right.”
When it comes to health-care reform, Weiner has been an outspoken proponent of a robust public insurance option which would compete with private insurers.
Early on, he indicated that progressives in the House would block a bill which did not include a robust government-health plan.
More recently, Weiner has suggested that a “watered down” bill can get through Congress even while he continues to make the case for a public option.
“If you want to water this down enough that you get 300 votes in the House and 70 votes in the Senate, of course, you can do it,” said Weiner.
Despite his relatively new assessment that a health-care bill can get through the House without a public option, Weiner maintains that such an approach won’t achieve all three goals of (1) covering more people, (2) forcing insurers to treat their customers better, and (3) controlling costs.
“Those first two things in my three-part assessment, there, are relatively easy to do,” said Weiner. “It’s that third part that if you water it down too far, it’s barely worth the effort we’re putting into it.”
Beyond the interview with Weiner, Thursday’s edition of “Top Line” featured a conversation with Politico’s Jonathan Martin about the day’s politics as well as photos of Jack Herman Klein, the son of ABC’s Rick Klein, who was born Wednesday at 9:15 pm ET.
Watch the interview with Politico's Jonathan Martin HERE .
ABC News’ Kim Berryman and Joshua Miller contributed to this report.