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Spitzer, Weiner hoping for forgiveness, perhaps Sanford-style comeback

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WASHINGTON - Another week, another disgraced American politician attempting to make a comeback.

Five years after he resigned in the midst of a sordid prostitution scandal, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is the latest one-time political star hoping for a second chance at the polls as he makes a run to become New York City comptroller, a job that would put him in charge of the city's US$134 billion pension fund.

"I think the public will have to ask itself the question: 'Can we forgive him?'" Spitzer said this week.

"I've asked for their forgiveness. I hope the public says yes — based upon the record I have, based upon the qualities I can bring to the office — and that's the best that I can do.''

Spitzer joins Anthony Weiner and Mark Sanford this year in an attempt to shake off a career-ending scandal to mount a political comeback. Are Americans really so forgiving — or are Spitzer and Weiner deluding themselves, inspired by Sanford's successful bid in South Carolina this spring to win a seat in Congress?

Political observers note that evangelical voters, in particular, will embrace stories of sin and redemption. The thrice-married Newt Gingrich, after all, was the front-runner in much of the South during last year's Republican presidential race.

Republican Mark Vitter was also handily re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, three years after the Louisiana lawmaker admitted to a "very serious sin" when his phone number was found in the records of a D.C. prostitution service.

Voters in South Carolina were equally forgiving of Sanford, whose marriage and career imploded following revelations about an extramarital affair.

"I think we have a tradition in the South, and in South Carolina, of forgiveness," Sanford said following his victory in May.

While there are few evangelical voters in New York City, there are signs Weiner is also benefiting from forgiveness in his battle to become mayor, with one recent poll propelling him ahead of his Democratic rivals in the race.

The Wall Street Journal survey showed Weiner with the backing of 25 per cent of registered Democrats, while Christine Quinn, city council speaker, trailed with 20 per cent. Some have suggested Weiner's rising fortunes may have convinced Spitzer to make his surprise attempt at a comeback.

Quinn has criticized both her rival for the job and Spitzer, lumping them together as men who do not deserve a second chance from voters.

“What have they been doing since their falls from grace?" she said on the campaign trail this week.

"What have they been doing since they were forced out of office? What have they been doing since their dishonest behaviour? I don’t think we see all that much from either of these men that would put them in a position where they would have earned a second chance, redeemed themselves from their selfish behaviour."

Weiner, who was forced to resign his seat in Congress two years ago after sending lewd photos to female fans on Twitter, shared his philosophy on redemption in a recent speech to high-school graduates in New York.

"If you think about it, you are not a success despite your obstacles, you're a success because of them," he said.

He made reference to GPS technology in arguing his point.

“What happens when you make a wrong turn? Does it turn off? No. It simply says 'recalculating' and it gets you back on your path. There is no reason you can't recalculate and get back on the road to greatness."

Another famous New Yorker isn't thrilled about the Weiner/Spitzer comeback tour.

"With Spitzer and Anthony Weiner running for office, New York is pervert central! Pathetic," Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

A more august New York institution than Trump is also wringing its hands.

"Mr. Spitzer, like Mr. Weiner, is a political animal who clearly finds it hard not to have an audience," read a New York Times editorial this week.

"That's understandable, but did they have to bring us all along on their journeys of personal ambition? For these two charter members of the Kardashian Party, notoriety is looking like the quick, easy path to redemption."

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