Personal resolve may lead Elizabeth Dole to seek vice-presidential nomination

By Holly Berreau and Stephanie Anderson
St. Cloud Times
November 7, 1999

Elizabeth Dole

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The St. Cloud Times recently published three syndicated columns with reference to Elizabeth Dole’s withdrawal from the presidential race.

In his column, Richard Benedetto of Gannett News Service observed that “many women reporters covering Dole found her syrupy Southern drawl, pastel suits, and oh-so-perfect hairdos off-putting” (Oct. 28). And Ellen Goodman of the Washington Post Writers Group noted that “one of the criticisms routinely launched against Dole was her perfectionism” (Oct. 28). Finally, Deborah Mathis of Tribune Media Services commented that “Elizabeth Dole didn’t come out swinging” (Oct. 30).

We, as students in a course on the Psychological Assessment of Presidential Candidates at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University this fall, were struck by the extent to which all three analyses — possibly unbeknownst to the columnists — converged around a common theme: the implicit role of Dole’s underlying personality pattern in her unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination.

Specifically, our assessment of Dole reveals a conscientious, dutiful, principled personality — a pattern that does not play well politically in an era where civic values are increasingly being shaped by entertainment industry standards.

Conscientious personalities often are overly controlled, stilted, and formal, and Dole’s carefully programmed, perfectionistic, emotionally restrained style clearly was evident in her abortive campaign, as it was in her withdrawal speech.

In fact, every line of the speech seemed too rehearsed, yet Dole’s outward demeanor did not always match the substance of her speech. For example, while comparing her meager war chest with the brimming coffers of rivals George W. Bush and Steve Forbes, she spoke in a respectful tone of voice, meticulously restraining any hint of bitterness or resentment.

This is classic conduct for conscientious personalities — they display reasonableness and restraint when faced with circumstances that would typically evoke anger or dismay in others. Don’t expect conscientious candidates to “come out swinging,” in the words of Mathis.

A more daring, adventurous, overambitious personality may well have risked racking up campaign debt in an all-consuming quest for the presidency. However, Dole’s conscientious nature led her to be more realistic and practical in her appraisal.

Thus, in announcing her decision to quit the race, Dole stated that it was more important to her to have raised important issues than to forge ahead in a futile attempt to win at any cost.

Our reading of her character suggests that this assessment on the part of Dole was more sincere than simply the “bravado and face-saving” that Mathis suggested in her column.

So, quo vadis Mrs. Dole? Although she has retired from the race for now, we believe Dole’s character-based resolve will continue to spur her on to seeking high-level elective office, possibly a vice presidential berth on the Republican ticket.

Throughout her life she has challenged the odds — for example, graduating from Harvard Law School as one of only two dozen women in a graduating class of 550, and becoming one of a select few female members in the Cabinets of two American presidents.

This leads us to believe that she will continue to challenge the odds as a strong female voice in the realm of national politics. As she said in her press conference announcing her withdrawal from the race, “Today marks the latest but by no means the last chapter of a story of service. … The road ahead beckons.”

What beckons may well be the prospect of Elizabeth Dole as a serious woman candidate for the vice presidency of the United States.

Holly Berreau is a junior mathematics major from Brewster, Minn. Stephanie Anderson is a junior biology major from Blaine, Minn. They are participants in the “Psychological Assessment of Presidential Candidates” course being taught this fall by Aubrey Immelman, associate professor of psychology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.