Mark Souder: Would he have resigned if he were a Democrat?
Republican Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana announced Tuesday that he would resign as rumors of an affair surfaced. The congressman ran on a family-values platform, but political experts say party affiliation has little to do with who survives cheating scandals.
Welcome to the club, Rep. Mark Souder.Skip to next paragraph
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So you had an affair with a staffer. After you had been elected on a platform of family values. Take a number, it’s getting crowded in here.
There’s Mark Sanford, who’s unusually fond of rambling hikes – and apologies. And Larry Craig, who enjoys playing footsie in airport restrooms. And John Ensign, who supported a federal ban on same sex marriages by proclaiming marriage is “the cornerstone on which our society was founded.”
But as you contemplate Life After Politics, soon-to-be-ex-Congressman Souder of Indiana, take comfort in this: Even a Democrat would have suffered a similar fate.
Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to sex scandals party affiliation doesn’t much matter.
“How admissions of adultery affect politicians has less to do with party than with how such admissions are handled,” says Ms. Duffy.
Challenging reporters to follow him around, claiming, “They’ll be very bored?” Unwise, Gary Hart.
A better example of how to handle stories of philandering?
“Take Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter,” says Duffy. “His admission of adultery and apology has not dampened his chances of winning reelection, despite the fact that he was elected on a platform of family values.
“Then, of course, there is former Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who didn’t survive his own admission of adultery because he didn’t really admit to the full extent of his involvement with escorts or really apologize for it.”
The difference between the two?
Lesson No. 1: ‘Fess up, own your mistake, apologize.
Lesson No. 2: For a start, steer clear of staff.
“It’s much more difficult for any politician to defend an affair with a staffer [like Souder] or advances toward staff [like Mr. Massa] because issues other than adultery are involved,” says Duffy.
Still, even if a Republican abided by lessons Nos. 1 and 2, a Republican politician might have a slightly higher chance of getting burned, says Duffy.
“It may seem that Republicans are disproportionately hurt by admissions of adultery, but that may be because Democrats also play the hypocrisy card when such issues arise.”
Until the next scandal hits one of their own.