It was his news conference, but it was hard to take your eyes off her. With Huma Abedin's emergence as her husband's chief defender and protector in a second sex scandal, she made a public transformation from being the victim of Anthony Weiner's transgressions to a full partner in his ambition.

Although those who know Abedin say they were surprised by how she seized the moment at his news conference Tuesday, rejecting humiliation for defiance, they note that she has been a major force in Weiner's unlikely bid for redemption.

One friend said Abedin has known since last fall that her husband had not given up his habit of lewd behavior with women on the Web. Nevertheless, Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, has continued to aggressively work Clinton's circle — to the annoyance of some — seeking support and contributions for Weiner's mayoral bid.