I know what you’re thinking, but per the big Times article out today, sounds like everything’s cool now. Says his brother, “[T]here was definitely a douchiness about him that I just don’t really see anymore.” Weiner 2013: Not as much of a douche.

If you’re looking for psychobabble about why he did what he did, there’s plenty at the link. I’m more interested in why this guy (a) still wants to run for mayor and (b) thinks he could win if he did. On the first question:

“I don’t have this burning, overriding desire to go out and run for office,” he said. “It’s not the single animating force in my life as it was for quite some time. But I do recognize, to some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something. I’m trying to gauge not only what’s right and what feels comfortable right this second, but I’m also thinking, How will I feel in a year or two years or five years? Is this the time that I should be doing it? And then there’s the other side of the coin, which is . . . am I still the same person who I thought would make a good mayor?”…

“Also, I want to ask people to give me a second chance. I do want to have that conversation with people whom I let down and with people who put their faith in me and who wanted to support me. I think to some degree I do want to say to them, ‘Give me another chance.’ ”…

He pondered the question for an uncomfortably long time. “I don’t know,” he said. “It won’t be something as pedestrian as ‘Do I think I’ll win?’ It will be something more like ‘Does it feel like I should be involved in this debate? Someone should be out there saying A, B or C.’ ”

He’s a liberal who’d be running in a field of a liberals to govern a very liberal city. There’s nothing he has to say, from A to Z, that one of his opponents won’t be saying. But that bit about second chances is revealing. I go back and forth between wondering if Mark Sanford’s prime motivation in running again is nothing more than sweaty political careerism or something deeper psychologically where, as someone who’s enjoyed power and public approval before, he needs the voters to accept him again before he feels fully personally redeemed. That’s a weird dynamic, as if the electorate’s one of the family members who’s been wronged by his misdeeds, but that’s politicians for you.

But why would a New Yorker, with so many other Democratic candidates to choose from, vote for a former congressional backbencher known mainly for being a loudmouth in cable-news segments and then for tweeting pics of his junk at random women? The answer is, they wouldn’t — yet. The best theory for why he’s interested in running now is because, in his own words, he needs to “clear the decks” before he can run again with a chance to win:

Over the last several months, Weiner has talked informally to a number of people in the political world, many of whom have suggested to him that the mayor’s race is unwinnable and he should instead consider running for a lower-profile race like comptroller or public advocate. But Weiner has privately dismissed at least public advocate. (As the political adviser says: “You run for mayor and you lose, you can possibly run again. You run for public advocate and lose, you’re dead.”) When I asked him by e-mail if he would ever seriously consider running for another municipal office as a steppingstone to the mayor’s race, he answered: “Maybe. I’m definitely not making eight-year bank-shot plans.”

The question is why Weiner is so eager to enter a race that seems so tough for him to win. There is the matter of the $4.3 million in the Anthony Weiner for Mayor war chest (plus about $1.5 million in public matching funds if he runs in 2013), which would make him one of the better-financed candidates in the race. But there may be reasons to run that have nothing to do with his chances. “Is this about winning?” asks the political adviser. “Or is this an attempt to get the scandal off the books? Then the next time he runs for something, he can say: ‘You know what? We talked about that last time. Aren’t we beyond that?’ If so, it’s not a crazy strategy. Because when you’re running in a race you know you’re going to lose, you get to say all the positive things you want about yourself and take the brunt of the jokes this round and then figure out your real move after that. But that takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to do.”

Run this year, take a beating, then come back in 2017 or 2021 when all the jokes are played out and your name recognition is still more or less intact. It’s interesting that Sanford didn’t feel obliged to take that approach: He’s running to win and probably will, but that’s a function of his profile in South Carolina being much higher than Weiner’s is in New York and the fact that Sanford faced a weaker field for the SC-1 seat than Weiner will in a mayoral primary. One question, though. If Weiner runs and gets laughed out of the race, what does he do for the next four years while he’s waiting to run for mayor again? The point in the excerpt about running for, and losing, a lower office is true. He’d have the stench of failure on him after that, and since it’s likely that Bloomberg’s successor will be a Democrat, he’d somehow have to win a primary against an incumbent mayor in 2017 and the general election over a Republican. Unlikely, and what does he do with himself in the meantime? My guess is he’s thinking of getting back to Congress somehow and that public abasement — and maybe a doomed run for mayor to remind people that he’s back, sort of — is part of the strategy. But his old seat in NY-9 is occupied by Yvette Clark, a Democrat who’s the same age as Weiner and just started her first term. That route is blocked. He could try to challenge Republican Michael Grimm from NY-11, which encompasses Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, but that district tilts slightly Republican and Grimm won reelection last year by a healthy seven points. Damn it, I don’t want to live in a world where Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner aren’t empowered to make key national policy decisions again.

Exit question via Ana Navarro: When does John Edwards announce that he’s running for something in North Carolina?