When coaching political candidates, one of my key goals is to ensure the candidate’s campaign image will not be the cause of his/her downfall.

When campaigning, it is what the candidate projects that will determine public election. Once elected, if that politician contradicts campaign promises, it can be hard for the public to forgive and re-elect. The two determining factors for public forgiveness of a politician are (1) the category of promises made vs. the type of promises broken; and (2) the degree of the perceived betrayal.

Why? As a politician, a candidate will often present his/her personal morals as a reason for why the public should vote for them. Additionally, it is the public perception of the candidate’s projected personality and private life that most strongly influences public election. They will vote based on their degree of liking the candidate’s image and how relatable the candidate’s life and beliefs appear.

So, if a candidate is caught making a “rough sex” tape (even if it’s with his spouse) or involved in a scandal that involves predatory-like behavior (e.g., manipulating others), the public will be less forgiving if that candidate projected an image of compassion and service. The same is true if the politician’s spouse or family members engage in acts that appear to contradict the candidate’s image.

If a politician’s private life is exposed and publicly judged to be less than promised, it will reflect on the politician and his/her ability to make the “right” choices. The public sees a candidate’s exposed personal moments as a betrayal of campaign promises. They wonder, ‘If you betrayed your spouse in an affair, are you also likely to betray your constituents or country?’ Or, ‘If you can’t control your kids, how can you control this country?’

Although the politician has less intrusion into his or her private life than does a celebrity, it is the politician who is more likely to experience a career catastrophe as a result – even if both committed the same act.

The reason: The exposed private life of a celebrity is not attached to his or her moral character. Conversely, for the politician, even with spinning the incident, the behavior is viewed as an accurate reflection of his or her true nature and character. His or her moral beliefs are questioned, negatively attached to the publicized behavior, and compared against his or her previously emphasized politically beliefs and image.

In the end, although politicians are only human, they can successfully navigate future public scrutiny if their political campaigns do not heavily emphasize their personal life. If a politician knows that her husband has a history of infidelity, for example, she would be wise in not making an explicit or implicit campaign that includes “family values”.  Instead, she should emphasize her track record of public or corporate loyalty, her selfless acts for the community, or her stand on student loan “forgiveness”. Then, should the private life between her and her husband be exposed, she will be triumphant in showing consistency in character. She will be more easily forgiven for her husband’s indiscretion because what is more readily seen is that, above all else, she is not a hypocrite.

When a politician’s personal life, morals, and beliefs’ are deliberately and explicitly highlighted as a reason to vote for him or her, the politician must also be wary that once he or she chooses to make their personal life public that the public will not put blinders on once the voting season has ended.


Dr. Reneé Carr is the leading expert in high achievement personalities and in abundance. As a psychologist and business-life coach, she helps accomplished individuals and businesses achieve elevated success and whole-life abundance through higher-level thoughts and behaviors. For more information, please visitwww.DrReneeCarr.com.