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.

Alex Brandon/AP
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Rep. Mark Souder (R) of Indiana is pictured here on Capitol Hill in this Feb. 24 photo. Congressman Souder says he'll resign from Congress effective Friday over an affair with a staffer.

Welcome to the club, Rep. Mark Souder.

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.”

And Eric Massa, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards ... all the way back to Gary Hart. (Couldn’t he have chosen a ship named something other than Monkey Business?)

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.

“It cuts across party lines, across ideological lines,” says Ron Faucheux, a political analyst and professor of campaign management at George Washington University.

Whether a politician is a Republican or Democrat doesn’t matter when it comes to whether he can survive a scandal says Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at The Cook Political Report.

“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.

Republicans are less likely than Democrats to support a candidate who has been unfaithful, according to a Gallup poll previously reported by the Monitor.

“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.


Live blogging Mark Sanford's weird press conference

Senator Larry Craig loses airport bathroom misconduct appeal

Ensign quits leadership post in wake of extramarital affair

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