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Huma Abedin and wronged political wives: few options, hard choices

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Abedin did not stand dutifully by her husband at his tearful press conference in New York on Monday. Though reportedly in the city, she chose to stay out of the spotlight. But by many accounts, that is not to be read as a sign that she is anything less than committed to her marriage. Representative Weiner said on Monday that he and Abedin love each other and intend to stay together.

Abedin has no more formidable a source for advice to turn to than Secretary of State Clinton, whom she has known since her days as a White House intern in 1996 and with whom she has a close relationship. Abedin is now an aide to Clinton at the State Department, and is accompanying her on a weeklong trip to Africa. Last July, former President Clinton performed Weiner and Abedin’s wedding.

Ironies aside, Abedin’s role in the Weiner saga is quiet but powerful. If he manages to survive the scandal, despite the calls from within his own party to resign and a looming ethics investigation, he may well have her to thank.

Political analysts suggest that in some cases where a wronged political wife displays solidarity with her husband, that has helped him maintain some level of public support and political viability. Ex-President Clinton is Exhibit A. So is Sen. David Vitter (R) of Louisiana, who was caught in 2007 on a prostitution ring’s client list. Senator Vitter’s wife stuck with him, and he was reelected last November. (Vitter, too, can probably thank the passage of time and an electorate accustomed to scandal.)

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