Elizabeth Dole's Moment

Despite some slowness in getting off the ground and the need to play catch-up in fund-raising, Elizabeth Dole's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination remains a force to be reckoned with.

She continues to register second in polls of GOP primary voters - often well behind Texas Gov. George W. Bush, but ahead of the rest of the numerous Republican pack. She also continues to score ahead of the would-be Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Al Gore, especially among coveted independent voters.

Mrs. Dole has the potential to end one of the GOP's lingering problems from the Reagan era: the gender gap. She outscores Mr. Gore among women voters polled.

But Dole's campaign will have to overcome some challenges to stay viable. One is her tremendous unwillingness to deal with the press. Her campaign appearances so far have been limited to talk-show-style canned presentations like the one she performed on national TV at the 1996 Republican convention. But reporters are kept far away from her, unable to ask her even the most basic questions. At some point, she's going to have to show she can be spontaneous.

Another challenge is the tightrope she must walk to win. A strong conservative, she must continue to appeal to her core supporters without driving away the moderate and independent women whose support she must have to prevail in the general election.

Then there are those who aren't sure a women is up to the job of president. Fortunately, they're a small percentage, but could be key in a close race.

As a newspaper founded by a woman, Mary Baker Eddy, we have no doubt a woman can do the job. To those who wonder, in light of Kosovo, if a woman could command US troops, we point to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands Islands.

Someday a woman will be president. Is Elizabeth Dole that woman? Her ability to clear the hurdles mentioned above may tell us.

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