Elizabeth Dole's withdrawal from the Republican presidential race Wednesday was both a disappointment and more evidence that the nominating process needs fixing.
Mrs. Dole pointed to her inability to raise the funds needed to compete with Texas Gov. George W. Bush. But there's more to it than that.
It takes money to run, of course, but the need is increased by the ever-shrinking presidential primary process. Primaries and caucuses that used to stretch out from February to June are now collapsed into a six-week period starting at the end of January 2000. There's no longer any time to get a "bounce" out of the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary and raise funds along the way for a bandwagon campaign that picks up speed as it goes along.
On another level, however, Dole never quite succeeded in getting across the reasons for her candidacy. It's not enough to be the first viable woman candidate: Dole's vague platform and programmed public appearances kept her campaign sitting on the launching pad. A tidal wave of support among women never appeared.
Democratic and Republican Party leaders, both state and national, must get together soon after the 2000 election to work on a new system of primaries and caucuses. We suggest a series of regional primaries and caucuses several weeks apart to allow candidates to focus their campaigns and raise needed cash.
For now, Republicans will have to seriously consider Dole as a vice-presidential nominee. In the meantime, the fact that she ran a visible campaign - in which she almost always ranked second in the GOP polls and often scored higher than Democratic Vice President Al Gore - has broken ground for the many female presidential candidates who will some day follow her. Even without making it to the New Hampshire primary, to paraphrase her campaign slogan, she made history.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society