NEW YORK (AP) - New York City mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner plunged to fourth place among Democrats in a poll taken since he admitted to having illicit online exchanges with women even after he resigned from Congress amid a sexting scandal.
The poll _ which Weiner led just five days ago _ also showed about half of likely Democratic voters saying Weiner should abandon his mayoral bid.
Weiner's support fell from 26 percent last week to 16 percent in Monday's Quinnipiac University poll. Last week's survey was taken largely before Weiner's latest scandal was revealed.
"He's in a free-fall," said poll director Maurice Carroll. "He can't win. He simply can't win."
Standing side by side with his wife, Weiner admitted last week that he had tawdry online exchanges _ including X-rated photos _ with a then-22 year-old Indiana woman after he stepped down from Congress in 2011 over similar behavior. He later said he had similar exchanges with two other women after his resignation.
Forty percent of voters said his behavior disqualified him from consideration as a candidate, up from 23 percent last week.
The poll of 446 likely Democratic voters shows Weiner trailing City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (27 percent), Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (21 percent) and ex-city comptroller Bill Thompson (20 percent). The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.
In a statement, Weiner said "polls don't change anything."
But last week's revelation has seemingly derailed his once-surging mayoral bid, sending him from political punch line to comeback story and back again.
Weiner forged ahead Monday in the face of countless calls _ including from pundits and powerful members of his own party _ to step aside.
"I'm going to keep talking about the things important to this city," he said at a campaign stop in Queens. "I don't really care if a lot of pundits or politicians are offended by that. I'm going to keep doing those things and I think New Yorkers deserve that choice. I'm going to let New Yorkers decide."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the head of the state's Democratic party, declined Monday to weigh in on whether Weiner should abandon his mayoral bid, but his scandal-scarred predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, allowed that he would fire an employee who engaged in Weiner's behavior.
The former governor, himself staging a comeback bid in the race for New York City comptroller, told MSNBC's Chris Matthews in a televised appearance that Matthews was correct in suggesting Spitzer would not vote for Weiner.
Spitzer stepped down from office in 2008 after admitting he paid for sex with prostitutes.
Several of Weiner's mayoral rivals have called for him to quit, including de Blasio, who benefited the most in the Quinnipiac poll from Weiner's tumble. De Blasio's campaign has targeted the same progressive and outer-borough base wooed by Weiner but was previously eclipsed by the former congressman's star power and campaign skills.
"Today's poll shows a wide open race," said de Blasio spokesman Dan Levitan. "It's no surprise that as the race heats up, more and more New Yorkers are supporting Bill de Blasio's campaign to bring real progressive change to City Hall."
If none of the Democratic candidates reach 40 percent of the vote in the Sept. 10 primary, the top two advance to a run-off election two weeks later. The winner would then face the Republican nominee in November.
The state's top Democrat continued to shy away from discussing Weiner's bid.
"This is summer political theater in New York," Cuomo said Monday. "We laugh because if we didn't laugh, we would cry, right?"
"People run, that's the way our system works," said Cuomo, who controls the state Democratic committee. "I'm not going to say who should run and shouldn't run because that's the system."
Associated Press writer Michael Gormley in Albany contributed to this report.
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