Examples: Rielle Hunter. The mistress to John Edwards during his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2008 is just one of the latest to resist, and later embrace, the public attention. After initially hiding out, she went on Oprah Winfrey's show and posed for photos for GQ. Now she's on the witness list at Edwards' ongoing trial.
Donna Rice. In 1987, Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart taunted reporters to check up on his conduct after rumors surfaced that he was having an affair. Soon a photo emerged of Hart sitting on a dock with Rice on his lap near a yacht named Monkey Business. That ended Hart's campaign.
Rice became a spokesmodel for No Excuses jeans, said she turned down big bucks from Playboy and went on to serve as an advocate for children's online safety.
Candidates trying to look tough on crime love nothing better than to find a new heinous criminal to kick around.
Example: Willie Horton. In 1988, Republican operatives went after Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis with ads displaying a photo of Willie Horton, a convicted murderer who raped a woman while out on weekend furlough under a program that Dukakis had supported as Massachusetts governor.
No one's advocating that as the pathway to fleeting fame. But even a small slipup could do the trick.
When college student Kolbi Zerbest's cup of yogurt splashed the president's pants during his visit to Colorado this week, Obama laughed it off and told Zerbest she had "a good story to tell."
She did — on the "Today" show.
AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
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