- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday said she is counting on women to help elect her president so she can prove women can succeed in politics.

“To all those who say we’ll never elect a woman president, we’ll never know unless we try, and that’s what I am going to do in this campaign,” the New York Democrat told members of Emily’s List, a pro-choice Democratic women’s fundraising organization.

She is making a stark appeal to female voters based on sex, and asking her female supporters to start conversations with other women about her candidacy. She started what she has dubbed her “I can be president” effort to coincide with Women’s History Month, and yesterday said one of her priorities will be to eliminate pay disparity between men and women for equal work.

Mrs. Clinton also promised to confront head-on the questions she said she hears on the campaign trail about whether a woman can be president.

“I hope you’ll join me on the campaign trail,” she said. “When we throw open the doors of opportunity and break those glass ceilings, then we give everyone in America a chance to be all that he or she can be.”

She walked onto the stage at the Washington Convention Center yesterday just after a video showed a woman looking very much like Mrs. Clinton being sworn in as president.

“I like the color of the outfit; the hair looked great. All we have to do is win,” said Mrs. Clinton, who ran and won her Senate seat in 2000 even as her husband was finishing out his second term in the White House. She won re-election last year.

The Emily’s List lunch was held in honor of Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, who became the first female House speaker earlier this year.

Yesterday, Mrs. Pelosi said her accomplishment and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign “remind us that the pioneering … is not over.”

Mrs. Clinton already has the support of Emily’s List in her presidential bid.

“The time has come to elect a president of the United States who is like us. The time has come to elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States,” said Ellen R. Malcolm, the organization’s founder.

Mrs. Clinton was careful to draw some of her fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls into her message of groundbreaking campaigns, pointing to Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who is black, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is Hispanic.

She said that together the three “represent the changes” in political opportunities in the past several decades.

Making her appeal to women, Mrs. Clinton said they earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work — an average of about $250,000 in earnings during the course of a lifetime. A conservative women’s group, the Independent Women’s Forum, disputes that claim, however, contending that women earn 98 cents on the dollar when factors such as age, education and experience are taken into account.

Mrs. Clinton said she is introducing a bill in the Senate this year to put muscle behind her plan. The bill would stiffen penalties for violating the Equal Pay Act, prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who ask about fellow employees’ salaries or share their own salary information, and would require the Labor Department to start collecting some statistics on women in the work force that Mrs. Clinton says stopped being collected under President Bush.

“As with so many things, they seem to think the problems will go away if they make the facts go away,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton may be the best-positioned woman ever to run for president, having access to donors and holding a substantial lead over the Democratic field in opinion polls at this point, though others have run before, including Republicans Elizabeth Dole in 2000 and Sen. Margaret Chase Smith in 1964, and Democrats Rep. Shirley Chisholm in 1972 and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun in 2004.

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