DENVER — Rep. Patricia Schroeder, her voice breaking with emotion and wiping tears from her eyes, announced today that she will not seek the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.
Schroeder, 47, told the crowd gathered in the city's Civic Center Park: "I learned a lot about America and I learned a lot about Pat Schroeder (this summer). That's why I will not be a candidate for President. I could not figure out how to run."
At this point she stopped, breaking into tears and wiping her face with a handkerchief.
Then she went on: "There must be a way, but I haven't figured it out yet. I could not bear to turn every human contact into a photo opportunity."
Her husband, Jim, who stood beside her at the podium, urged her to "take a minute, take a minute" to compose herself before continuing.
Her decision leaves five announced candidates and one unannounced contender in the Democratic field. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, Sens. Paul Simon of Illinois and Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt have declared their candidacies, and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson is expected to formally enter the race next month.
'Long Way This Summer'
Schroeder told supporters: "You have all brought us a long way this summer. . . . We took this campaign all over America with a small band of hard-working people.
"We rubbed two sticks together and we started a political brush fire," she said.
Schroeder spent nearly four months testing the political and financial support she could garner for a presidential campaign after fellow Coloradan former Sen. Gary Hart dropped out of the race because of questions about his relationship with a Miami model.
Schroeder urged her backers today to "build on gains we have made and not lose them. We must get America back to a government by the people, for the people."
Her announcement that she will not run came about five minutes into her speech. She said she set out this summer to "see if it was too late to mount a campaign, not a symbolic campaign but a winning campaign for the presidency of the United States."
"I said that I could not stand aside from a campaign that would decide the nation's future and my children's future."
'Rendezvous With Reality'
In her travels throughout the country, Schroeder said she found "an America ready for leaders who tell the truth, ready for a rendezvous with reality."
"I found Americans who want nuclear terror lessened on the planet. I found an America people want to preserve, not destroy," she said. "Americans do not want their fears continually fanned to mortgage our future."
Schroeder said she was proud to be characterized as "the candidate that people would be most likely to buy a used car from."
It was Schroeder, the senior woman in Congress and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who coined the term "Teflon President." She has called Ronald Reagan a leader who relies on "happy talk" and needs a "rendezvous with reality."
She has also accused Reagan of a "Rambo" mentality in dealing with Libya and Iran, and has said the Administration is "into this mind-set where you operate with your glands and not your brains."
She has also referred to the announced Democratic presidential hopefuls as resembling "a bowl of unset Jell-O" and as "wing-tip moderates."