The George Washington bridge scandal has New Jersey governor Chris Christie on the ropes, putting a 2016 presidential run for the Republican at risk.
If Christie truly did not know that people within his administration had covered up the bridge closing all is not lost. He should be able to mount a comeback like others who have managed to overcome their scandals and return to power.
But Christie’s prickly personality might make a comeback more difficult with political allies as well as voters. Here are two politicians who have overcome scandals, and one that was unable to make a comeback.
Mark Stanford - Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, disappeared mysteriously in 2009. His staff said that he was out walking the Appalachian Trail. It was soon revealed that he was in Argentina conducting an affair with María Belén Chapur. Both the House of Representatives and the South Carolina legislature censured him.
One would think a debacle like this would end a political career. But Sanford managed to pull off a victory in South Carolina’s 2013 Congressional special election, despite the National Republican Congressional Committee pulling support for his campaign. He did it by garnering support from the far right of the party, and by running against a weak field.
Bill Clinton - Clinton is the ultimate comeback kid, overcoming numerous infidelities with Monica Lewinsky and Jennifer Flowers. But he was also able to bounce back from the Whitewater scandal that dogged him and Hillary Clinton during the 1992 campaign.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Clintons invested in the failed Whitewater Development Corporation. Then, during the 1992 presidential campaign, evidence emerged that the Clinton’s partners, Jim and Susan McDougal, made illegal financial moves to keep the company afloat.
The Clinton’s were never implicated, but the controversy dogged them throughout Bill Clinton’s presidency. Clinton and his wife Hillary overcame it in two ways. First, they simply denied allegations that they pressured Arkansas banker David Hale to make a loan to the McDougals.
But Clinton was able to overcome this and other scandals because of his sheer likability. Republicans loathed Clinton, but everyday Americans loved him. Even after he was impeached, he left office with the highest approval rating of any U.S. president since World War II. He remains a force in American politics.
Elliot Spitzer - Spitzer was undone in 2008 by his admission that he had a thing for high-priced hookers, spending some $80,000 over several years. He resigned as the governor of New York soon after.
He attempted a political comeback in 2013, running for New York City comptroller. But Spitzer, who was often criticized as unlikeable, was unable to convince voters to give him a second chance, and lost in the primary.
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