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Political minds ponder frontrunners

Political minds ponder frontrunners

March 19, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

Which one of these is not like the others: Pakistan, India, United Kingdom, Denmark, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Rwanda, Israel, France, Canada, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Chile, Iceland and the United States?

The answer is that the United States is the only nation on the above list that has never had a woman in its main leadership role, while the other 14 nations - and more - have had or now have a woman in the nation's primary leadership position.

Over time in the United States, dozens of women have sought the presidency or vice presidency, but most ran with small parties and gained little or no national recognition.

Only Geraldine Ferraro appeared as a national party candidate, running as vice president with presidential candidate Walter Mondale in 1984. The Democrats lost to Republican Ronald Reagan.

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Now eyes are turned to one woman, known by the single-name moniker of Hillary.

Will she or won't she?

Speculation has already begun on whether Hillary Clinton will seek the presidency in 2008, with a Shepherd University political science professor saying she believes it's likely.

Clinton is positioning herself for a run, in part by moving to the center rhetorically. But even if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, professor Stephanie Slocum-Schaffer said she believes the former first lady has "too much baggage" to be elected.

Whether it's accurate or not, Clinton is perceived to be a far-left liberal - which won't have her celebrating in November 2008, Slocum-Schaffer said she believes.

Clinton has not said whether she will run, insisting she is focusing on her re-election to her U.S. Senate seat in New York. The Republican woman's name bandied about most often for president is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but Rice has maintained she has no interest in seeking the seat.

On Clinton's Web site, supporters can buy T-shirts, signs, buttons, hats and a variety of other merchandise. Most of it bears her official logo - which consists only of her first name and no reference to the Senate, meaning those "Hillary"-emblazoned coffee mugs and jackets will be just as relevant in two years if Clinton runs for the presidency as they are today.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said in e-mailed responses to inquiries that she believes a woman will one day serve as president.

"In 2006, we know one of the frontrunners for the Democratic presidential primary is Sen. Clinton," Mikulski said. "I believe there will be a woman president at least by the 100th anniversary of the women's right to vote in 2020, but hopefully sooner."

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was equally optimistic.

"Without a doubt we'll have a woman president," Capito said in a phone interview. "I'm 52 and I hope it's in my lifetime."

Could the Oval Office adequately be filled by a woman?

"I think a woman could be president," said Doris Costello, 76, of Jefferson County, W.Va. "I think they're very stable in their opinions. I don't think they make as many snap decisions as men might."

Women also are more educated overall than in past years, said Costello, who said she would not vote for Hillary Clinton.

Evelyn Roman would.

"I think (Hillary Clinton) could be president. I think she's a smart woman," Roman, 81, of Hancock, said. "She might show some of the men up."

For Bonnie Martin, voting for a woman would not be a normal practice. "As a rule, for the most part I think that's a man's job," she said of the presidency.

Hillary Clinton is another matter.

"I just think she'd make an outstanding president. I think she's very smart," Martin, 60, of Williamsport said.

"I think she's a lot smarter than Bill Clinton," Martin said, adding that she approved of the former president.

Capito: Women might communicate differently

First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, Mikulski served in that capacity for 10 years before successfully running for a U.S. Senate seat in 1986. She has served continuously since and is now one of 14 women in the Senate as well as the dean of women in the Senate.

Women, she said, have made a difference.

"When I talk about the difference that we make, I can just refer you to recent news that said women experience heart disease different than men and often go undiagnosed.

"When I came to the Senate from the House, I knew that women were not included in the protocols of research at NIH (National Institutes of Health) or any academic center of excellence," she said in an e-mail. "So we organized. We mobilized. We challenged that and changed the law to make sure we were in those protocols. We established an Office of Women's Health at NIH."

A woman in the Oval Office could bring certain qualities with her, Mikulski said.

"A woman president would help to better meet the day-to-day and long-range needs of women, along with the nation as a whole. And she can serve as a role model to inspire other women and girls and show them what they can do."

Capito - the only woman representing West Virginia in Congress - said she frequently is asked what qualities a woman might bring to the office that a man might not.

"I do think that women, in general, maybe think a little bit more with their hearts," including on issues related to education, veterans and families, Capito said. "I think we communicate a little more in a personal way."

To have a woman president, women must be willing to run.

Capito said strides have been made - there are more female governors than ever before and Capito is one of 63 women in the House of Representatives.

When a woman is elected to the presidency, Capito said she believes it will have to be someone of prominence who has made a name for herself.

And, she suggested, obstacles will not necessarily be based on gender.

"I find it to be a great advantage," to be an elected woman in office, Capito said, "because you can talk more frankly, more personally on issues."

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