Politicians under fire: Who quit, and who survived

(CBS News) By refusing requests from Mitt Romney and dozens of Republican leaders to get out of the race before last night's deadline to get off the ballot, Congressman Todd Akin, R-Mo., is betting that he can get Missouri voters to forgive his verbal misstep. That's a tricky calculation - sometimes it works - and sometimes it doesn't.

48 hours after his self-proclaimed slip-up, an optimistic Akin went on Sean Hannity's radio program Tuesday and said people are over reacting.

"It appears to be fears and paranoia," Akin said. "The Republican Party has bid this thing up to make it a lot bigger deal than it needs to be. Yeah I know everybody gets upset for a couple of days."

So for the moment, Akin is going nowhere. But sometimes when politicians get in trouble, they resign quickly.

It took two days for former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to announce his resignation after news broke that he'd patronized prostitutes.

Former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner hung in a little longer. For three weeks he denied that he tweeted suggestive pictures of himself to several young women before he finally came clean and stepped down. "I had hoped to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do," Weiner said.

The record holder may be former New York Rep. Chris Lee. It took him just three hours to resign after a website published a picture of him shirtless that he sent to a woman on Craigslist.

But Akin is trying to follow the lead of those who made it through the media firestorm, like Louisiana Sen. David Vitter. "I am completely responsible and I am so very, very sorry," Vitter said as he admitted to using a prostitution service and apologized. Five years later, he is still a senator.

(Watch John Dickerson's analysis in the video below.)

Then there's former President Bill Clinton, who survived impeachment after the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

But it's not always what politicians do that causes problems. Sometimes, like Akin, it's what they say. Former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott got into trouble for suggesting the country would have been better off without the civil rights movement. He apologized and lost his leadership position, but remained in the Senate for five more years.

"Lots of people say something dumb," crisis management specialist Eriz Dezenhall said. "Some of them survive, some of them don't."

Dezenhall said your chances of survival after a gaffe are better if you're likable. "Ronald Regan and Joe Biden say and said lots of dumb stuff. It doesn't seem to matter, because whether it's the media or the general public, there is a general aura of geniality and a feeling that they didn't really mean to do anything horrible."

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent

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