Appearing on Wednesday's NBC Today, Huffington Post contributor Abby Huntsman proclaimed that following Mark Sanford's win in Tuesday's special congressional election in South Carolina, disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner "probably slept well last night knowing that he can potentially come back, too."
Co-host Willie Geist agreed: "Absolutely, absolutely." News reader Natalie Morales chimed in: "I was thinking the same thing this morning."
A panel of Today's liberal pundits expressed their hope for a Weiner comeback on July 18, 2012, with chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman gushing: "He's cuckoo smart, he's a great representative, and no one understands health care and I think the problems better than he."
On April 11, all three network morning shows eagerly promoted Weiner's rehabilitation efforts ahead of a possible New York City mayoral run.
If Weiner does run for elected office again, one wonders if NBC will give him the same grilling they gave Sanford. Early in the special election campaign, co-host Savannah Guthrie pressed the former governor:
You know, there are a lot of people who are watching and they're probably thinking, "You know, everyone does deserve a second chance. Everybody deserves a chance to rebuild their life. But not everybody is entitled to run for public office when it relies on the public trust, especially at a time when our Washington institutions have lost so much respect." What would your response be to that?...do you really need to run for public office? What is this about?
In an interview with Sanford earlier on Wednesday's broadcast, fellow co-host Matt Lauer wondered:
Do you see this as the completion of your comeback or is there more that you still have to do to repair your reputation?...it was a bruising campaign, Democrats took shots at you, your own party walked away from you in terms of support for your campaign, so who are your friends?
Here is a full transcript of Huntsman's May 8 commentary on Today:
WILLIE GEIST: And this is the big political story today, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is an elected official once again, four years after the scandal of his extramarital affair nearly derailed his political career. You'll remember in June of 2009 he claimed to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail when he left the governor's office for a few days, went missing. In fact, he was visiting his mistress in Argentina.
Well last night, Sanford beat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of Stephen Colbert, in a special election for South Carolina's open congressional seat.
Abby, you cover politics everyday, what do make of it?
ABBY HUNTSMAN [HOST, HUFFPOST LIVE]: You know, this is the most, one of the most remarkable comeback political stories I think we've ever seen. You have a lot of people today scratching their heads saying, "How is this possible?" But you know, there are a number of reasons why this happened. I mean it was a very conservative district. I think he out-campaigned Elizabeth Colbert Busch. I mean, he's done this before. So this was less about a vote for Mark Sanford and more about, you know, a vote against the alternative, which is a Democrat.
NATALIE MORALES: Interesting.
HUNTSMAN: They're very fiscally conservative there and I think you put up a picture of Nancy Pelosi and that scares them.
MORALES: Well, and he talked about his track record in an interview with Matt earlier. I mean, I guess he does – I mean he's been governor, he was congressman before, so I guess people know what he stands for when it comes to the issues and I think, by and large, it seems like they've forgiven him for his past.
HUNTSMAN: But that's the question, have they forgiven him or is just that they'd rather him in office. Because that's the question I keep asking myself, is it that we've forgiven him and we've forgotten? I don't think that's necessarily the case.
MORALES: I think people like to believe in second chances in this country, too, though. So I think they see, you know, he's now engaged to the mistress, so I think they feel like, you know, he has a new life and you know they-
HUNTSMAN: I thought Anthony Weiner probably slept well last night knowing that he can potentially come back, too.
GEIST: Absolutely, absolutely.
MORALES: I was thinking the same thing this morning.
GEIST: And by the way, It was not close. The polls going in had it too close to call. He won by nine points, which is a big margin, there in South Carolina.