Larry Gerston believes that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may have written the first lines of his political obituary this week by acknowledging a long-running affair with a television newscaster who covered City Hall.

"All I can say is that if I were him, I wouldn't make any plans to run for the Democratic nomination [for governor] in 2010," said Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State.

Other analysts say not so fast: If the mayor sticks to his political knitting, there is plenty of time to recover -- he is only halfway through his first four-year term as mayor. And voters can be very forgiving, as Villaraigosa himself proved by winning election despite admitting a separate affair in 1994 that nearly ended his marriage.

"If the public trusts you to do the right thing in your capacity as a public official on issues impacting them and their families -- schools, public safety, transportation, jobs -- then you can survive the personal issues regardless of whether they do or do not trust you personally," said Democratic Party operative Chris Lehane, who worked for President Clinton.

In the short term, a few experts wonder if the tumult over Villaraigosa's personal life might at least cause some collateral damage to the Democratic presidential campaign of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who sought the mayor's recent endorsement because he is one of the nation's most well-known Latino politicians.

Villaraigosa has yet to weigh in on any aspect of the unfolding scandal since Tuesday, when he admitted his affair with Telemundo newscaster Mirthala Salinas.

The usually indefatigable mayor disappeared from public view this week, canceling all of his appearances to "attend to personal and family matters," a spokesman said.

The mayor's aides, anxious to jettison the controversy and repair the mayor's image, plan a blitzkrieg of appearances and announcements in the coming weeks to show that Villaraigosa is focused on his job.

Starting Monday, the mayor will pay special attention to education, emphasizing his efforts to improve the Los Angeles public schools, and announce a program to fill 350,000 potholes over the next year.

"The strategy is to get back to work every day on the issues that matter to people in this city," said Deputy Mayor Sean Clegg.

That may be easier said than done. Some experts believe that Villaraigosa's personal troubles could stay alive because of the many scandal threads the media can continue to pursue, starting with Salinas' future as a reporter. On Thursday, she was suspended with pay pending an investigation by executives at KVEA-TV Channel 52. Then there will be the ongoing divorce proceedings with Villaraigosa's wife of 20 years, Corina, and in all likelihood, increased scrutiny of his personal life.

"These things are going to keep rippling for weeks, if not months, and the longer it goes on all these things reinforce what has happened," Gerston said. "He has a crisis-management issue here in the worst way, and he has to go through this contrition thing. It's not just saying, 'I'm sorry, I can't get along with my wife.' It goes so much deeper than that."

If history is any guide, however, Villaraigosa may be able to bounce back in the long run from a catastrophic week that saw pictures of him and Salinas on the front pages of newspapers and on television broadcasts across the nation.

The experience of former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and current San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom may offer instructive lessons.

Giuliani was unfaithful to his wife while in office but is now a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination -- largely because crime dropped while he was in office and, at the time, he gained near-heroic status as the city's public face in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

And Newsom has seemingly rebounded since February, when he admitted an affair and alcohol abuse -- a turnaround that experts say is the result of San Francisco's liberal mores and the fact that the scandal motivated him to also seek redemption through hard work.

"The bottom line is that [Villaraigosa] has to get things done," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican strategist who publishes the "California Target Book," a guide to state and federal races. "Part of the problem now is that people seem to be more aware of his peccadilloes than any actions that he has taken to make the city better since he was elected."

Villaraigosa now finds himself the butt of jokes stampeding across late-night television, talk radio, Internet blogs and newspaper columns. One radio host this week invited listeners to suggest nicknames, none of them flattering.

That sort of publicity does not augur well for Villaraigosa's role as a national chairman of Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.