PRior imPRoPRieties

      4 Comments on PRior imPRoPRieties
Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer (photos: AP, Getty)

Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer (photos: AP, Getty)

Because public relations practitioners often focus on forming, reinforcing or changing public opinion, I’m intrigued by the candidacies of Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner.  Spitzer, the former New York governor who solicited prostitutes and was forced to resign in 2008, declared this week that he is running for New York City comptroller.  He already leads in early polls.  Weiner, the former Queens congressman who tweeted salacious photos of himself and resigned in 2011, leads in the race for New York City mayor, according to a Wall Street Journal-NBC New York-Marist poll released last Tuesday.

There is mixed reaction from the public and political pundits about these two candidates, and their exploits have again become fodder for late night comedians.  But although Weiner and Spitzer may have, at minimum, had serious lapses in moral judgment, they do have one very strong positive going for them: they both have tremendous name recognition.  And just as the old political adage states that “every handshake equals a vote,” name recognition gives candidates a huge advantage over lesser-known opponents.

But what of their misdeeds?  Both men have told reporters that they believe they’ve atoned for their sins and deserve a second chance.  Spitzer told Jay Leno in a taping of “The Tonight Show” on Friday, “People who fall prey to hubris end up falling themselves…and the fall from grace is incredibly painful.  It is something from which you can learn.”

I wonder if such humility will move the public’s opinion of Eliot Spitzer enough to get him elected comptroller.  And are New Yorkers willing to vote Anthony Weiner into the city’s highest office just two years after his terribly embarrassing resignation? There can be no escaping frequent focus on their misbehavior, no matter how often they attempt to move the discussion to the issues.  Spitzer and Weiner are excellent communicators, but they’ll have to be highly effective at steering the conversation away from their indiscretions.  We’ve seen politicians (including Bill Clinton, of course) recover from sex scandals, so these races will be very interesting to watch.  Your thoughts?

4 thoughts on “PRior imPRoPRieties

  1. Colin Sullivan

    I think we have seen in the last few election cycles (local and national) that the perceived “celebrity” of a candidate can translates to votes. I think both men (whether I agree with it or not) have a good chance at winning their respective races. However, like we saw with Romney should either make an “off-the-cuff” comment regarding the former acts of shame that could show they have NOT learned from the experience and hurt their campaigns.

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  2. Lauren Brookmeyer

    It’s completely arrogant of both of these gentlemen (if you can call them that) to run again for public office. Talk about ego. While I understand making a mistake and being granted forgiveness…have some dignity and refrain from seeking the honor of holding public office yet again.

    With regard to being elected, name recognition does indeed play a key role. However, in the case of Spitzer and Weiner, I believe their success will depend on how well the Democrats rally up the troops to vote. New York City is overwhelmingly Democratic. The Republican candidate is the underdog before the campaigns even begin. However, if the Republican challengers run strong campaigns, Spitzer and Weiner should be focusing their attention on voters who are loyal to the party and its beliefs above all else.

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  3. Perception In Print (@SCharleme)

    In recent decades, society has become increasingly more forgiving of the misdeeds of political leaders. Consequently, the admission of deviant behaviors no longer signifies the demise of a political career. I agree with you that Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are at a major advantage because they are such recognizable figures. As veteran politicians, both candidates not only know how to navigate the political whirlpool but also know the right sources to tap into to gain funds to support their campaigns — a courtesy not readily available to new politicians. Furthermore, they are likely under the advisement of some of the most elite crisis management firms in the business. And as we all know, the primary goal is to increase their standing in the polls. However, the resounding question that remains is, where is the shame?

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