The emerging sex scandal involving Gov. Eliot Spitzer raises the possibility that the man elected on a wave of popularity in 2006, winning almost 70 percent of the vote, may leave office after one stormy year, having accomplished little.
"If he stays on, it’s going to be very hard to get things done," said Democratic consultant and lobbyist Norman Adler.
Adler pointed out that the federal prosecution of the Emperors Club VIP, the high-priced Washington prostitution ring at the heart of the scandal, could go on for years, providing continuous bad publicity for Spitzer.
"There is the snicker factor, every time this comes up," said Adler.
The New York Times reported Monday that the 47-year-old Democrat, who is married with three daughters, was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a prostitute.
Spitzer apologized to the public and his family today, though saying little about the nature of his offense, or his intentions.
"I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standards that I expected of myself," the governor said in a brief statement. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family … I will report back to you in short order."
Spitzer could face federal charges stemming from the investigation. In any case his political capital, already weakened from a prior scandal, is all but depleted.
"Could he hang on? Yes," said Adler. "Would he be the same kind of governor? No."
But Adler said Spitzer’s limited statement about his intentions suggests a will to fight.
"There are a lot of advisers seeing their future go up in smoke who are saying ‘you can tough this out," said Adler.
Spitzer, the state’s second Jewish governor, had earned high marks for busting corruption on Wall Street and in the insurance industry during his two terms as attorney general, paving his way to an easy ascension to the governor’s mansion.
But last summer he quickly became mired in scandal as it was revealed that his aides attempted to use the state police to gather negative information against Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
Spitzer made no secret of his desire to shift the balance of power in the state Senate to the Democrats, who already control the Assembly, which would give him unprecedented power to implement his agenda.
A special election upstate last month that put David Barclay, a Democrat, in a vacant Senate seat brought that dream one step closer to reality.
But today’s scandal raises the question of whether he would still be in Albany to reap those benefits.
"If it was anybody else I would say he could do it," said Adler. "But this is a guy who prosecuted two prostitution rings as attorney general. If you are running for state Senate, would you want him by your side?"
Spitzer’s resignation would pave the way for Lt. Gov. David Paterson to become the state’s first African American chief executive.
Formerly a state senator from Harlem, Paterson has a long history of working on black-Jewish ties and recently returned from an American Jewish Committee mission to Israel.
"He is very genuine, an authentic person, who has always stood with the Jewish community in Israel and has been deeply committed to the strengthening of black-Jewish relations," said Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.