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LAist Political Notebook: Will Spitzer Hurt the Democrats?
As the country waits to see what the future holds for crusader turned illicit copulater Eliot Spitzer, it is worth examining what impact his prostitute predilection might have on the Democratic Party.
Spitzer, the once immensely popular governor of New York that swept into office with 70 percent of the vote, was an early and avid supporter of Hillary Clinton. He is a Clinton superdelegate and helped solidify the support she enjoys in the state during the Feb. 5 Primary. While it was more symbiotic than anything else, his support for Clinton should not be overstated.
Clinton won her home state by nearly 20 percent more than eight years after she took the Senate seat by 12 points. At the time, she enjoyed a broad base of support from New York City and, more importantly, upstate New York, encompassing the state capital Albany, where Spitzer has lived for the last year. While she appreciated his support, she did not need it and will not be hurt by the absence of it, especially given that his popular opinion is mired in a 30 percent hole.
If Spitzer resigns, she would lose him as a superdelegate. However, the governor would be replaced by the next in line, Lt. Governor, David Paterson, someone who is already a superdelegate and a Clinton endorser (and legally blind). Though it may not decrease her superdelegate lead, per se (at the moment, she has 245 to Barack Obama's 207), the overall pool of superdelegates free to support either candidate could be reduced by one, to 794.
Given that Spitzer's indiscretion was not a symbolic showcase of endemic Democratic sexual debasement (or any other kind of systemic immorality for that matter), his fall from grace will probably not hurt the party to which he claimed affiliation.
What do Democrats do if Republicans start calling foul and for a return of "traditional Republican values"? They come back with messers Craig, Foley and Haggard and point to McCain's fabled temper.
But it might not even get to that point given that before this incident, Spitzer was not a national Democratic figure. He was popular (sort of) and well known for fighting the good fight, but he was never a national Democratic player. It was said that his eyes were big (as was his wallet, apparently) and that he was eyeing a possible presidential run in the future. In as much as he may have been laying the groundwork, the 48-year-old governor did not have too much of a role in the national party and relatively no affiliation (officially, at least) with Obama or McCain.
Also, in as much as this appears to be an isolated case of a horny rich man paying for the services of a high class prostitute - something Harvard Law Professor (and Spitzer's former teacher) Alan Dershowitz called a "victimless crime" - the damage and resulting fallout seems easily containable.
All candidates reacted to the news yesterday with the same of sort of bewilderment that characterized the feelings of many who heard the news: what the fuck?
Clinton said she will "wait and see" before issuing a further statement, Obama declined to offer an opinion as he was still finding out what was going and McCain said, "I don't know what to make of it.''
As Spitzer weighs a possible resignation, Democrats continue to fight the good fight in your favorite state to spell: Mississippi, where the candidates are vying for 33 delegates in today's primary. Mostly due to its large black population, Obama is favored to take the contest, but a win now for either candidate hinges not on whether they claim a W but by how big that W turns out to be.
By capturing a majority of delegates, Obama might not put Clinton away for good, but he could send a message to the voters of upcoming contests in Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan that he is the man for the job. If not, Denver awaits.
Campaign Buttons, by JSF539 via Flickr
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