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Is scandal enough to sink Spitzer for good?

  • Story Highlights
  • N.Y. governor, a hard-charging ex-prosecutor, falls far amid link to prostitution
  • "There's no way he can survive" scandal, GOP consultant and adviser says
  • Ex-Bill Clinton adviser: He has a chance if scandal's enemy-driven or only about sex
  • Estranged wife of ex-N.J. governor says Spitzer should resign to spare family grief
  • Next Article in Politics »
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Before Monday, Eliot Spitzer was a rising star in the Democratic Party -- his squeaky-clean image as a corruption buster led to his being mentioned as a potential vice-presidential candidate and possibly even a future White House contender.

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New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer arrives with his wife Monday for a press conference.

Now, after federal investigators have linked the New York governor to a top-dollar prostitution ring, political advisers are split over whether Spitzer has any political future at all.

"There's no way he can survive it," said Ed Rollins, a Republican political consultant and adviser to former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. "All the facts aren't out there, but as they're being reported, there's no way you can survive.

"Not only is he a hypocrite, he may also end up being a charged felon."

On Monday, Spitzer publicly apologized for an undisclosed personal matter. He did not specifically mention the prostitution sting, nor did he resign. Video Watch Spitzer's apology »

The apology came four days after federal prosecutors announced the arrests of four people in an international prostitution ring that charged clients up to $5,500 an hour. A source with knowledge of the probe said that wiretaps in the case identify Spitzer as an unnamed client who met a prostitute on February 13 at a Washington hotel.

Many political professionals said they were stunned by Monday's developments regarding Spitzer, a man who once made a name for himself going after organized crime and Wall Street corruption as New York's attorney general.

"Obviously, the facts are going to come out in the next several days and the story will be told," said Robert Zimmerman, a political adviser and Democratic National Committee member. "But if the facts are as we suspect, it's very hard to imagine him staying in office."

But James Carville, a CNN political analyst and onetime adviser to former President Bill Clinton, said Spitzer could hold on to his position if the scandal remains strictly about sex -- or if it's revealed that his political enemies were responsible for leaking the story.

Carville mentioned other high-profile politicians who have weathered sex scandals, including Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after his arrest in a men's room sex sting, and his own former client, President Clinton.

"All of us remember the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the immediate rush to judgment," he said. "A lot of people said, 'How could Bill Clinton survive a scandal like that?' Yet, he managed to survive.

"If it's not a financial or monetary thing involved, I don't know." Video Watch a discussion of Spitzer's political future »

On a more personal level, Dina Matos, the estranged wife of former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey -- who resigned after an alleged affair with a male political aide -- said Spitzer should step down whether he thinks he can salvage his political career or not.

McGreevey, who announced he is gay and is now attending an Episcopalian seminary, and Matos are in the midst of divorce proceedings.

Matos said "was very difficult for the family" when her husband tried to hang on to the governor's office for several months after stories about the relationship with the aide surfaced.

"I thought Gov. Spitzer was going to announce his resignation today," Matos told CNN's "Larry King Live." "By not doing so, he's only prolonging the pain and and anguish and humiliation for his wife and family." Video Watch responses to the question: Will Spitzer have to resign? »

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If Spitzer resigns, Lt. Gov. David Paterson would complete his term in accordance with the New York state constitution. Paterson, 53, is the highest-ranking African-American elected official in New York state.

Paterson, who is legally blind, is a leading advocate for the visually and physically impaired. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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