Scandal-scarred pols often able to come back

(CBS News) NEW YORK -- The political rumor mill is in high gear in New York after reports that former Rep. Anthony Weiner is thinking of running for public office again.

Weiner resigned last year after sending out sexually explicit photos on his Twitter account.

But now, published reports say he may run for mayor.

Weiner may be betting on a trend in which voters are willing to give flawed candidates a second chance.

He doesn't have the kind of resume most campaign directors would relish.

First, there were the pictures the Congressman sent to several young women.

Then, there was the lying about the pictures, then the tearful resignation over them.

Conventional wisdom dictates that, after a Twitter storm of the Weiner variety, no amount of disaster assistance could rebuild his political career.

Or could it?

Given the reaction of voters in the past, history may be on Weiner's side.

Consider New York Rep. Charles Rangel, charged in 2010 with almost a dozen ethics violations. Did it matter? He won a primary last month. His seat just might be safe.

Former President Clinton, of course, is the poster child for political redemption. It wasn't a proud moment for him or the country, but infidelity hardly ended his political career.

Nor did it for some high-wattage presidential hopefuls. Both Rudolph Giuliani and Newt Gingrich had well-publicized affairs -- and re-marriages.

While they never became their party's nominee, cheating hardly seemed a deal-breaker in the eyes of many voters.

So just what would? It's hard to say.

Take Marion Barry. In the 1990, he was caught on tape smoking crack with an FBI informant, but went on to be re-elected as Washington, D.C. mayor.

It's not that moral and ethical lapses can't end political careers.

John Edwards cheated on his wife, who was suffering from cancer, and that ended his bid for the White House.

But he now hints his public life might not be over, saying, "I don't think God's through with me; I really believe he still thinks there are good things I can do."

Maybe Weiner feels the same way.

Maybe voters really don't care what a candidate does in his private life.

Or maybe, they really can forgive and just want to forget.

To see Lee Cowan's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Lee Cowan

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