Now that we have money, we start assembling a staff. But with the kind of money we can afford to pay--between $800 and $1,700 a month--it's a relatively young, unseasoned group. Practically everyone's under 30. We're afraid to offer big salaries because we don't know how long the campaign will last; at the same time, we're besieged by people who want to get on the campaign, paid or volunteer, and there just isn't time to screen everyone. I'm thoroughly shaken to find that one potential state coordinator who had come highly recommended to us had been accused of raping a worker in another campaign.
THE TURNING POINT: 'What Have We Started?'
AUGUST 11: After weeks of eating junk food and living out of suitcases, I'm relieved to arrive in the Minneapolis airport a little bit before Schroeder so I can pamper myself with a manicure. Then it's off to a fund-raiser arranged by Minnesota's secretary of state, Joan Growe.
By now we're used to crowds, but the one at the University Club is like nothing we've seen yet. Growe was expecting 250 people. Twelve hundred have shown up. There's no way to speak to all of them at once, so Schroeder pushes to the microphone at the front of the room and delivers her speech. We make our way through the throng to the next room, carrying the podium, and she gives it again. Then we go through the whole routine twice more.
And at last, she's sounding like a candidate. No more lame jokes, no waffling, no ums and ers. "If there's dough, I go," she says emphatically. We raise $30,000 this trip. Schroeder appeals to a mixed group of men and women, longtime party activists, people with a range of experience that we can draw on--if we can build an organization. Maybe a Minnesota strategy will work. While the other candidates are fighting over Iowa and New Hampshire, Schroeder might be able to take Minnesota, an early-caucus state, and keep building. Still, it's chancy. We're far from the $2 million that Schroeder has said we need by the end of September to keep her in the race. And Minnesota, we keep reminding one another, was after all the only state to go Democratic in 1984.
Away from the crowd, Schroeder is curiously pensive. We go back to our hotel room between meetings, soaked with sweat, our feet swollen in the hot weather. "What have we started?" she asks, the ambivalence clear on her face. "I never dreamed there would be this kind of a showing."
She falls silent. For the first time, it's apparent to her that she might be able to go all the way, that people will truly respond to her. She can't be tentative on the stump if she wants to win support, but she can't mislead these enthusiastic people, either. "I just want to go to my room and sleep," she says. But the next morning she tells me she hardly slept at all. The big decision is still ahead.
FLYING EAST: Fatigue and Doubts
SEPTEMBER 6: Schroeder and her husband, Jim, are flying back from a brief vacation--the only time they've had alone together in months--when she sees her campaign schedule in the newspaper. The next day, Labor Day, she'll be doing fund-raisers in three Florida cities, all across the state. "Oh no, I'm off again at dawn," she moans. It's back to the grueling routine of airports, bad food and up to a half-dozen events a day as she hustles to test the political winds in as many states as possible. "I'm turning my body into a chemical waste dump during this campaign," she grumbled a few weeks ago, gulping down a hot fudge sundae. "Sugar, caffeine, sugar, caffeine, sugar, sugar, salt, sugar. I use the salt to break it up."
There's never a moment to rest. On planes, where she might catch a nap, she never turns away people who recognize her. After articles appear in Time and People magazines, it seems that everyone knows who she is and wants to talk. When business executives and parents with children stop in the aisle to introduce themselves, I offer to trade seats for a while so they can sit down and chat.
September 20: The crowds in Minnesota are large and enthusiastic, and our meetings have run long. Pat and Jim Schroeder and I sprint to the gate at the airport. We're the last to board, and we take the three empty seats that remain, a row in the stuffy tail of the plane. Our flight pulls away from the gate on time, but we're stuck on the runway for two hours with no food, nothing to drink and air conditioning that switches on and off.
Rain begins pouring through the bright sun outside, and as we watch, two rainbows appear in the sky. "It's a sign that you should run," Jim tells Pat. They reminisce about how people said she couldn't win her congressional seat in 1972, yet she managed to pull off the one upset of the Nixon landslide.