It’s been five years since Eliot Spitzer resigned as Governor of New York amid a prostitution scandal. However, after a short-lived stint as a pundit for several networks, Spitzer has announced that he is ready to give politics another go and is bidding for a spot as New York City’s comptroller.
Scandals like Spitzer’s often prove to be career-enders, but that is not an absolute rule. Consider the case of Marion Barry, a former Washington D.C mayor, who was reelected after being caught soliciting prostitutes and smoking crack cocaine.
Barry isn’t the only example however. Anthony Weiner is currently a front-runner in New York City’s hotly contested mayoral race. And in case you forgot, Weiner was at the center of a pretty big scandal just two years ago while serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Both Spitzer and Weiner have a lot of work to do in order to regain their once-stellar reputations. That said, Weiner seems to be well on his way to political redemption when considering his recent surge in the polls.
Weiner’s bounce hasn’t happened by chance, and Eliot Spitzer (and PR communicators) should be paying attention to what it is the candidate is doing to rebuild his brand. With that in mind, here are three lessons that Eliot Spitzer can learn from Anthony Weiner:
1. Rebuild from the ground up. While Weiner is well-known and recognizable, he has not taken that for granted. Instead he has been running a grassroots campaign that includes knocking on doors, making several public appearances and establishing a devoted core of volunteers. In other words, Weiner is not relying on his name or his political experience, but instead rebranding himself as a new candidate.
2. Become an everyman. A “plain folks” appeal implicitly suggests someone is accessible, hard working and just like you or someone you know. Bill Clinton developed a Teflon image taking this approach, and Weiner is rolling up his sleeves and following suit. Sometimes in politics it’s not about voting for the most-qualified person—it’s about voting for the most-liked person.
3. Stick to the issues. While scandals may be top of mind for some, the issues have to take precedence. Both candidates should consider their mishaps as old news, and not tailor their campaigns to be apology tours. Still, neither candidate can run away from their past. So Spitzer should pay attention to Weiner’s tactic of addressing his past with light humor and spinning the conversation towards issue-based dialogues.
Follow Caysey Welton: @CayseyW