With Eliot Spitzer’s surprise announcement that he’s running for New York City Comptroller, the Big Apple now has two disgraced former politicians running for office this Fall. What’s next? Bill Clinton deciding he’d like a shot at Manhattan Borough President?
If nothing else, having two disgraced politicians affords New York with a new branding campaign. I’d suggest a riff on the Beach Boys’ classic, and opt for: ‘Sleaze City, USA.’ Featured lyric? “Two sleaze balls for every voter.”
Speaking of branding, image and reputation, what do the Weiner/Spitzer reincarnations say about the men, the city and society in general?
Americans have always loved second acts in life (someone who enjoys a meteoric rise, self-destructs and then, somehow, some way, rises again like the mythical Phoenix).
And, politics is chock full of examples.
Richard M. Nixon’s career was considered dead and buried after he lost the California gubernatorial election in 1962. But, he reinvented himself, and went on to win the presidency in 1968 and, again, in 1972 (before signing off on the wire-tapping of Democratic Campaign Headquarters in Washington, D.C.’s Watergate Hotel).
And, Ronald Reagan who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1968 and 1976, was considered too old to be considered for the 1980 nomination. We all know what happened in that instance.
Of course, Nixon hadn’t sexted topless photographs of himself to young women (and, ugh, who would want to see Dick Nixon’s flabby upper torso in the first place?). And, the erstwhile screen star, Ronnie, was a devoted hubby to wife, Nancy, who was more familiar with script girls than call girls.
So, politics has a long-standing tradition of second acts. Whether we’ve just witnessed a broadening of the definition to now include documented sexual hijinks remains to be seen. But, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against either Weiner or Spitzer.
Despite their oh-so-public flaws, they’re both brilliant orators with razor-sharp minds. And, New Yorkers like their politicians to be larger than life (Think: Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, John Lindsay and even Mike Bloomberg).
It may not be right, but the Big Apple is THE single best venue for a disgraced politician to open a second act in politics. After all, City Hall is just a few miles from Broadway.
Great analysis, Peter. Thanks. It’ll be interesting to see how each candidate bears up under the intense media scrutiny in the weeks to come.
Great post, Repman.
First of all, I think next week is a better time to see whether Eliot Spitzer is still a “f—-n” steamroller or has humiliated himself once again. Yes, he’s gotten himself a lot of attention, but no one’s ever gotten 3,750 signatures needed for the NYC ballot in less than five days.
That’s just a ridiculous deadline. I’m not sure any amount of money thrown at the problem can make those signatures legit if they aren’t. And there are a lot of powerful people who quickly closed ranks in their mutual interest to elect Scott Stringer and shut Spitzer out(http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323368704578596252820052358.html)
I’m wagering against Spitzer. But that’s for another day and a judge to decide. I actually think he would make a good NYC comptroller….on paper. Scott Stringer’s got a good, scandal-free record as a public servant and is well-respected, but outside of political circles and Manhattan’s Upper West Side, most New Yorkers ask, “who is Scott Stringer?”
As for Weiner, no way. His numbers look great now, but those polls are generated by name recognition and media awareness. And if you do put stock in what Marist or Quinnipac say, his negatives are over 40%.
To win for NYC Mayor, you need a great street and/or labor union operation and lots of donations. Weiner has neither. He doesn’t have a Congressional record of substance. He has nothing to say policy-wise except what he thinks will get him elected. It’s clear he only wants the job for public glory and is making it up as he goes along and gets lots of attention. Plus Weiner has this nasty tendency to puff up his ego and get really obnoxious, even without Twitter.
But the real question is whether the public will accept either Weiner or Spitzer, if he’s eligible to run? Are New Yorkers really different that voters in South Carolina or Louisiana?
No one really knows, but I’m betting yes simply because when it comes down to it, we just don’t like either of these guys. Each of them has put together a contrition act that looks like that exactly, an ACT. Clinton is the master of biting the lower lip. Sanford is pretty good. Heck, even Nixon could do it well when he had to(see “Checkers Speech”).