Schroeder out of the race

WITH Rep. Patricia Schroeder's announced decision not to run for president after all, the field of candidates remains all male, and the eight-term Colorado Democrat - the senior woman in Congress - is presumably in good shape for a ninth term. This newspaper does not endorse aspirants to public office, but the broadening of the field to include both men and women would have been welcomed.

She had earlier insisted that she had no interest in running a symbolic campaign; she would not enter the race unless she had a realistic possibility of winning. Finances remained a major question; she had raised only about half the $2 million she had said she would need. Women running for office, more so than men, face the dilemma of not appearing ``credible'' until they have raised lots of money, and being unable to raise lots of money until they are ``credible.''

And Ms. Schroeder, evidently more than most of her male colleagues, was wary of turning herself over to the image consultants that are so much a part of politics today. Her flip, wise-cracking style has often - though not always - played well on Capitol Hill, and she hesitated to see herself ``repackaged.''

But if she had run and not won, she wouldn't have damaged the prospects for women in politics. We can flatly predict that at least 11, and maybe all 12, of the currently announced male candidates will not win the presidential election.

Her decision not to run does not, of course, preclude other women from running. Nor does it preclude either party from running a woman for vice-president.

And it is clear that American women in politics are moving beyond tokenism and symbolic candidacies. Schroeder has solid experience on a broad range of issues - domestic as well as international and military. If she had entered the race, she would have had, as regards service in Washington, a seniority edge over all six Democratic men in the race.

The hesitancy of some women in politics to support a Schroeder candidacy, disheartening though it must have been to her exploratory campaign, is itself a sign of political maturity. Many of those women were already committed to other candidacies, and rightly felt it was important, for their own credibility, to stick by those commitments.

Moreover, even if no woman runs, male candidates will surely want to demonstrate that they, too, think and feel deeply about the concerns often, too narrowly, labeled ``women's issues.''

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