Schroeder tests the waters

THE latest instance of the ``Why not me?'' approach to running for president seems to be Rep. Patricia Schroeder. And, indeed, why not?

After surveying the wide field of contenders, the Colorado Democrat has been in New Hampshire lately, sounding out the possibilities of making a run for the White House herself. She has said she plans to reach a decision by summer's end.

The questions are whether that would be too late to start a successful campaign (a mere year before the election!) and, more important, whether the funds would be there to support a Schroeder campaign. ``No dough, no go,'' she is wisely saying.

Despite the large number of contenders already there, the Schroeder candidacy would be a welcome addition to the field.

She would be, of course, the first woman from a major party to announce her candidacy since 1972, when Shirley Chisholm declared for president.

Presumably a Schroeder candidacy would encourage other women into other races.

Schroeder might lose, but so what? Men run for office and lose all the time.

She has a number of things going for her. She was first elected to the House in 1972, which gives her a seniority edge on some of the announced Democratic contenders.

She has solid experience in ``hard'' issues, such as defense, as a result of her long tenure on the House Armed Services Committee, as well as ``soft'' issues, such as family policy.

She has an agenda. And in the debate over such legislation as the parental-leave bill, she has cogently articulated the issues of the economic restructuring of the American family. Specifically, she has articulated these as family issues, and not just women's issues - and that has been good tactics and good strategy.

She is known as ``squeaky clean,'' and that should prove useful at a time when personal morality has become such an issue. Somewhat ironically, she had been co-chairwoman of both of Gary Hart's presidential campaigns. It was the abrupt fall from grace of her Colorado colleague, whom she had been quite close to on issues, that sparked her interest in running herself.

There are some difficulties, to be sure - ``personal'' quirks of the type that are, alas, almost inevitably going to be held against her more than they would be against a man.

She has one of the quickest tongues in politics; will that be held against her, or will she be appreciated for her straight talk? There's one good way to find out....

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