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Dole does Iowa swing in 'non-campaign'

By Candy Crowley

February 23, 1999
Web posted at: 3:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT)

AMES, Iowa (AllPolitics, February 23) -- Most GOP lists of presidential candidates place Elizabeth Dole near the top, but she has not officially announced if she intends to run.

Still, that has not stopped the former cabinet secretary from rehearsing political stump speeches in Iowa, where she headlined a recent forum sponsored by Iowa State University.

There is a hyper-polish about Elizabeth Dole that suggests even the way she moves is practiced. Even the most engaging story is carefully scripted, well-rehearsed.

Dole
Elizabeth Dole  

"These are the first words I heard in law school: 'Elizabeth, what are you doing here? Don't you realize there are men who'd give their right arm to be in this law school, men who would use their education?'

"That man is now a senior partner in a very prestigious Washington law firm. And every so often I tell that little story around town. I love to tell that little story around town."

Little is left to chance in the non-campaign of Elizabeth Dole. No mistakes. No surprises. Except maybe this -- over 2,000 people showed up on a cold day in Iowa to see her, but they didn't all come for the anecdotes.

Even given that she was hosted by the school's Center for Women and Politics, the number of women who showed up to listen, wear her buttons and urge her to run was striking.

"I'm just really excited ... by the possibility of a female president," said one young woman, "Me being a kind of feminist."

Besides spanning generations, that political dream crossed parties.

"I think I would be very, very tempted, even though I'm a lifelong Democrat, to vote for her because I am very very interested in we women getting over there in Washington," said a rally attendee.

And gender.

"We need a Margaret Thatcher. Someone that will bring this country back," said one elderly man.

Opening up the new millennium with the country's first female president is just part of the appeal of Dole, the wife of former GOP candidate Bob Dole.

Some see her as an antidote of sorts. "I think the way the country's going right now we could use some strong, moral leadership," said one woman.

"She will get a certain portion of the vote because she is a woman. A lot of people are looking for that, especially after the sordid mess that's gone on in Washington over the past year or two. I think she brings that appeal," said Dee Stewart, director of the Iowa Republican Party.

Iowa's caucuses take place in about a year, and for now Elizabeth Dole seems content to rest in this political limbo. But there is an organization to be built and money to be raised, lots of it. And believe it or not, there's not much time left.

There is every indication she will run. In this pre-campaign campaign period, Dole meets privately with potential supporters and gathers up names.

"It's certainly not too early to build a contributors team is it? I mean it's important to move because a year from now it's practically over," Dole tells one supporter.

A roomful of people willing to help does not a campaign make. And on the trail, novelty captures attention initially, but can fade fast, or even work against a candidate. Just ask Pat Schroeder or Shirley Chisolm, other female contenders whose campaigns floundered well before reaching the White House.


CAMPAIGN 2000

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Bradley unveils $65 billion plan for universal health care (9-28-99)

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Tuesday, February 23, 1999

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