We asked science if Eliot Spitzer could win. It said yes.

The year 2013 is looking to be a banner one for politicians recovering from scandals. Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who admitted to an extramarital affair during an odd, rambling news conference in 2009 and had to fight off subsequent impeachment attempts, won back his old Congressional seat in May. Former congressman Anthony Weiner is the frontrunner in the New York City mayoral race, only two years after resigning from Congress due to a sexting scandal. And now, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer is running for New York City comptroller, five years after resigning the governorship after confessing that he was a client of an escort service.

Sanford’s win and Weiner’s poll numbers — not to mention Sen. David Vitter’s easy reelection in Louisiana in 2010 following a prostitution scandal — are anecdotal evidence that voters are willing to forgive and forget. But there’s somewhat more rigorous research to back that up. Indeed, it seems like Sanford’s and Spitzer’s cooling-off periods of four to five years are pretty much ideal. [cont.]

Dylan Matthews, Washington Post