"It's always hypocrisy that hangs you from the highest branch, because people are just outraged by it," says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "You don't have to be politically active to understand the hypocrisy factor, and that's what makes it so powerful."
Few political analysts give Governor Spitzer, once known as the "Sheriff of Wall Street," much chance of riding out this scandal, because of his history. In his former role as New York's attorney general, he sued gas stations for price gouging, dairies for inflating the cost of milk, and mutual funds and Wall Street brokers for using deceptive practices to fleece customers.
People who know Spitzer well say he no doubt understands the difficult situation he's created for himself, given his long history of pointing out others' foibles.
"He's one of the most realistic guys I've come across when it comes to talking about their political chances," says Brooke Masters, author of "Spoiling for a Fight: The Political Rise of Eliot Spitzer." "If he thinks it's going to be embarrassing, he isn't going to stay."
Whatever his decision, Spitzer may not actually be charged with a crime. Users of prostitution services are seldom charged, and that's even more true in federal cases, such as the one that has engulfed Spitzer, say former prosecutors. The case came to attention after the Internal Revenue Service noticed suspicious transfers of money that it thought may point to money laundering. That's what prompted the initial tip to the FBI. But former prosecutors say it would be difficult to prove money laundering even though Spitzer allegedly tried to disguise his payments.