"Never frown at your enemies, always smile. It scares the hell out of them."

Knowing that Pat Schroeder's father often gave her this advice might make you a little anxious in her presence. This is a woman who smiles so much that your own jaw aches as you watch her. Whenever she greets anyone outside the very tight circle of her intimates -- a constituent, a TV moderator, an airline clerk -- the chin comes up, the cheeks rise to swallow the eyes, and the smile doesn't so much come over as take over her face.

It is only when the smile retreats that you discover the deeply wary look in her eyes.

Patricia Nell Schroeder is a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in polka dots -- and stars and lace and floppy collars and sometimes-funky jewelry, which she packs in a plastic bag as she makes her way around the country. People comment a lot on these feminine, dress-as-if-you- don't-give-a-damn-about-success clothes because it is the most concrete way to describe this enigmatic woman, who disclaims personal ambition far more insistently than political politesse requires, yet has run herself ragged for three months in a flirtation with the ultimate political achievement.

Monday brings what the 15-year U.S. representative from Colorado has called, in a takeoff on the slogan of her exploratory campaign for president, "my own rendezvous with reality." She is scheduled to speak in the heart of her Denver district, to announce whether she has concluded that it is possible for a liberal feminist legislator "to jump-start a presidential campaign."

Since early June, when she announced that she was considering a run in the wake of fellow Coloradan Gary Hart's withdrawal from the race, she has traveled some 75,000 miles, testing political support, raising close to a million dollars and sounding what she still insists, right down to the wire, are her own conflicting feelings about whether to run.

Only in the past few weeks have political seers begun to believe that her conclusion is in doubt. This week she disappointed a capacity crowd at a National Press Club luncheon by maintaining her posture of indecision, and Wednesday night she canceled plans to participate in a debate in Iowa.

"I still don't know, and I'm not being coy," she said in an interview this week. "You figure, you might as well take as much time as you can."

As her travels have made clear, there is at least one enormous contradiction at the heart of her potential campaign, having to do with her gender. Schroeder's novelty value as the first woman to mount a serious bid for the presidency is the major asset that would enable her to join a race her rivals began running a year or more ago. She knows this, she plays to it, and yet she asks to be judged as if "my name were Patrick Schroeder."

There is also a major contradiction in the heart of the 47-year-old quasi-candidate herself, having to do with her own sense of her style, her history and her luck. She often says she has gotten this far -- she is the dean of the 25 women who serve in Congress, something close to a national political figure -- on a quixotic set of strengths opposite those it typically takes to mount a presidential campaign: on beliefs, habits, and even mannerisms she may need to surrender if she chooses to run.

She should not run, many political observers believe, without facing the first of these contradictions.

She cannot run, she has belatedly acknowledged, without reconciling the second.

The Nontraditional Road Some people would sell their souls for the kind of energy Pat Schroeder has.

She is up by 6 -- even earlier much of the time since she started sort of running for president -- to tackle a packed schedule of speeches, fundraisers, press gatherings, "drop-bys" and interviews. In Atlanta, she was the Bruce Springsteen of politicians, overstaying by 45 minutes the scheduled end of a fundraiser; the next night, in Waterloo, Iowa, she sparkled through a gelid evening of jokes and speeches and, worst of all, tacos, on what was surely the hottest night of the midwestern summer.

She appears to run on Snickers bars and caramels, cookies and ice cream. "I'm turning my body into a hazardous waste dump during this campaign," she tells three mildly boggled reporters who have just followed her into an Atlanta ice cream parlor and watched her order a hot fudge sundae for lunch.

The next day she confesses that plain hot water is her favorite hot beverage. Because most people -- including her husband -- find this practice peculiar, she says, she drinks it only when she's alone.

Furtive hot water and public hot fudge seem apt parentheses for the personality of a woman whose customary posture is self-deprecation, but who seems almost innocent of self-doubt. A woman most frequently described with the adjectives "nice" and "abrasive." A woman so efficient she does her Christmas shopping in July, who exerts an apparently bottomless self-discipline, but has somehow earned -- or perhaps cultivated -- a slightly dizzy reputation. A woman whose political drive seems exceeded only by her scorn for politics.

One of the first things you notice is that she is far more attractive than she seems on television, which exaggerates the flaws that in person make her so striking. The second is that she is, in a political, but also original sense, quite charming. When she kisses a baby, she really kisses her, or him -- never the "it" most politicians tentatively jounce with arms held perpendicular to the body. When she compliments the hostess of the Atlanta fundraiser, she manages to convey that she actually understands how much trouble it is to produce dozens of hot hors d'oeuvres.

"I'm always stunned," says son Scott, 21, "by how she can be so peachy to everyone all the time."

Daughter Jamie, 17, puts it another way: "This is the big difference between her and everybody else on the planet ... She comes home from the road and says, 'Who wants to go shopping? Who wants to go to the ballet?' Where most people would recoil, she's ready to go ...

"I think it's fabulous, but I think it's almost inhuman to be able to do that."

But if she is always up, she is not always on. When she is good, she is very, very good -- capable of an electrical, emotional connection with an audience, and of coaxing belly laughs from the most dubious listeners. But when she is bad, she sounds like an ill-prepared high school student. Or a nanny.

On a recent Saturday in her district, she gave a moving speech at noon to the fifth anniversary convention of the United Seniors of Colorado, a gathering that included her parents. She spoke of her "burden-sharing" proposal to force developed allies to assume more of the costs of self-defense, telling several hundred men and women of the generation that fought World War II, "You are the wonderful ones with historical memory. We need your voices to remind us what 1945 looked like" before the Marshall Plan helped revivify Europe. "America has nothing to apologize for," she continued. "We are the only country I know that sent our most precious resource -- our own flesh and blood -- to foreign shores."

An hour later, speaking to the Colorado chapter of the American Association of University Women, she gave a rambling, amateurish talk on the state of individual rights in America. "I mean that's an incredible kind of heritage we have, that's an incredible heritage," she said to the group of academics. "And we can't let people mess it up."

Since June, Schroeder's exploratory effort has been handled by a small campaign operation in Denver and in her husband's Washington law office. But she did not hire a campaign manager until last week, and as recently as late August, questions about political strategy drew blank looks from her staff -- and something like hostile looks from her.

"I have always been so nontraditional," she said. "All you do when you talk to traditional advisers is they tell you, 'Don't do this, don't do that, you can't do this, you can't do that.' And my life has been one of doing it. We've never used pollsters, and we've never had campaign consultants that sit around and do that kind of stuff."

She notes that she has toured the whole country on her water-testing trips, not just Iowa and New Hampshire, sites of early contests next year. "So I suppose that you could say that that's some scenario or strategy or something, but it's just kind of evolved as what it felt like was the right thing to do. It's not like we sat in a room and strategized."

People close to Schroeder differ about whether this is the disingenuous posture of a hastily assembled campaign or the bedrock principle of Schroeder's political career.

Some argue that it is both. Pat Schroeder has come far, after all, by letting politics tiptoe up behind her.

Carving Out a Career She entered the game in an upset victory improbable enough to make Frank Capra blush. It was 1972, the year of President Richard M. Nixon's landslide reelection. In 1970, for the first time in decades, the Democrats of Colorado's First District had lost the House seat to a Republican -- a popular former Denver district attorney. Although Colorado had never sent a woman to Congress, Pat Schroeder was recruited to run as an anti-Vietnam, pro-environment, activist candidate because no other Democrat could be found to oppose the pro-war state senate minority leader in the primary.

"The more traditional-type candidates weren't interested, because they saw it as a lost cause," says Schroeder's husband Jim, whose involvement in politics predates his wife's, and who had narrowly lost a 1970 race for the state legislature. "So we decided, all right, let's find somebody -- in fact, it may be beneficial to find somebody -- that's different."

Pat Schroeder was both different enough and qualified enough: She was a Harvard-trained lawyer; she had worked for both the state (as a hearing officer) and the federal government (as a field attorney for the National Labor Relations Board), had taught law at three local colleges, and was well connected with liberal activists through her work as legal counsel for Planned Parenthood of Colorado.

Jim, who wrote his thesis at Princeton on Adlai Stevenson, remembers explaining patiently to his wife that "of course, this will be a Stevensonian campaign. You'll talk sense to the American people but, you know, there's no way you're going to win."

But as he watched his wife take on the career he had wanted, he saw through the eyes of a pro what Denver's liberals had hoped for, but not counted on -- that Pat Schroeder was a natural.

"It was viewed as fairly audacious that she should even run, much less win," says one Colorado political associate. "I think that demonstrated to her that she could go against the tide of conventional wisdom."

So when Pat Schroeder came to Congress at the age of 32, a rather severe-looking peacenik lawyer with a ponytail, she came with that lesson under her belt. She had a 2-year-old daughter, a 6-year-old son and a notion that she wanted to be on the House Armed Services Committee.

The role of gadfly does not come easily to a woman in traditionally male institutions, especially to a woman who is in some ways a confirmed people-pleaser. A woman who, for instance, orders a drink in a restaurant by saying, "I would love a glass of white wine, please." But that was the role Schroeder chose, becoming the first woman on a committee that she lost no time in denouncing as a rubber stamp for the Pentagon.

She laughs and allows her voice to rise to a whine as she mimicks the committee members' response: "Oh, who is this woman on our committee, and why is she here, and we didn't want her, and everything was rosy, and we had to take her, and this is demeaning, and -- "

Then-Armed Services Committee Chairman F. Edward Hebert, who was chief among the objectors, waged a quiet war against her, ordering staff members to withhold crucial information and denying her his pro forma approval for her attendance at an overseas conference. "I wouldn't send you to represent this committee at a dogfight," he reportedly told her.

But Schroeder stunned Hebert by waging her own very public war in response, establishing her reputation for both courage and abrasiveness. In a Redbook magazine article only 10 months after she got to Congress, she was quoted as saying, "Hebert is a sexist. He doesn't believe that anyone with a uterus can make a decision on military affairs."

Over the years, especially as defense reform became a mainstream budgetary issue, Schroeder gained respect as someone who does her homework and refuses to fold easily on a point of conviction. She also carved out a role as the friend of the soldier, sponsoring legislation to improve the lot of military families and to boost military pay.

As chairman of the Civil Service Subcommittee of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee, she has become a leading advocate for federal employes in such areas as whistleblower legislation. She is one of a handful of members to belong to two major committees (Armed Services and Judiciary), and this year was appointed deputy whip for all arms control legislation in the House.

A longtime supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, Schroeder is probably best known outside Washington for her work on so-called women's issues, such as pay equity, abortion rights and, most recently, parental leave. She has been highly visible as the cochair of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues and takes apparent satisfaction in having been a pioneer, as the harassed working mother of two, in areas now trendy as "family issues."

And yet, although she has served longer than the only other House member running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.), she is not a major power there.

One reason is that she is widely thought by colleagues and staffers to be spread too thin. In the words of one Hill staffer, she belongs to the category of members "who are all over the place, who tend to get a lot of ink, but don't get a lot of respect within the institution."

She is also dogged, more vaguely, by the impression that she is erratic, "a flake." It was born of her early publicity -- of such incidents as an Easter 1979 Armed Services Committee trip to China, when she donned a bunny suit to entertain Chinese and embassy children -- and of her habit of responding flippantly to criticism, such as the time in 1978 when she made a mathematical error in a defense appropriations amendment and suggested on the House floor that her questioner "consult with my husband. He will tell the gentleman that I do have great trouble in balancing my checkbook also." It doesn't help that she uses exclamations like "yippy-skippy" and signs her name with a little smiley face in the "P" of Patricia.

"I think it's basically the only handle people think they have," Dan Buck, Schroeder's administrative assistant, says of the flake rap. "For us, it's like this false target; I think it's funny. If they want to underestimate her, let 'em. It's like Reagan being underestimated all these years by his opponents."

"I don't think that {flakiness} applies at all," agrees Rep. Henry Hyde (R-N.Y.), a conservative opponent who expresses great respect for Schroeder. "She's colorful, but a flake would be someone who's out of control, unpredictable. And I think she's very much in control."

Schroeder insists that the flake rap is a function of her "not being part of the get-along-go-along" ethos of Congress. "It's been a very comfortable place where the old boys can always gang up on the new boys and convert them in six months. It's very hard to figure out how you gang up on women and convert 'em.

"But I've been just independent enough that I think that troubles people ... I suppose my directness could be considered abrasiveness or smart aleck-ness or something."

"On the personal level, she's not terribly well liked in the House," says Rep. Lynn Martin (R-Ill.). "When Pat came here, I think she did some things she worked hard on and that she hasn't gotten enough credit for them." But, Martin says, "all of us remember our mothers nagging. And Pat's got some of that tone ... Sometimes she can be incredibly aggravating."

Schroeder early on gained a reputation as something of a grandstander -- always on hand with a pithy quote that got her name in the paper. It was Schroeder who dubbed defense contractors "the welfare queens of the '80s," charged that the Reagan administration "thinks arms control is a form of deodorant" and, in an August 1983 floor speech, coined the term "Teflon-coated presidency" for Reagan's apparent ability to evade the fallout of his administration's errors.

But the worst thing they say about Schroeder is that most damning of epithets on Capitol Hill: that she is Not a Team Player. She votes against the Democratic majority often enough to irk colleagues, especially on spending bills.

Says Michele Lord, executive director of the Women's Caucus staff: "I've seen in the way she operates legislatively that she's a big risk-taker. When she wants something to happen, she's not always known for compromising, or working with coalitions of members. I don't think she minds being a lone wolf on issues."

Her constituents clearly don't mind either. Schroeder has carried her district by increasingly large margins -- 68 percent of the vote last year -- and even her loudest critics acknowledge that her unabashed liberalism has kept her Denver constituents happy. "Pat has probably been more consistent on voting on substantive issues as far as the people who first elected her are concerned than anyone who's ever held elective office," says a longtime Denver activist. "None of us wants the same things we wanted 16 years ago, but I think she's been as consistent as politics gets."

Longtime conservative Armed Services Committee members now give her credit, at least in public, singling out her work on issues affecting members of the military and their families.

"Through their teeth! Through their clenched teeth!" Schroeder says, through her clenched teeth.

The Road to Denver "She doesn't wallow emotionally," says Sally Brown, her best friend of 20 years.

"She just sort of gets up every day and -- you know those Mickey Mouse slates, where you just pull the thing up and, phhht, it's clean? That's what she does ... I think her feeling is, it's not what's happening now, why talk about it?"

"She's really into the here and now and the future," says her daughter Jamie. " ... She just really doesn't talk about the past."

But on the road Pat Schroeder actually does talk about the past -- the parts you might expect to hear about from a presidential candidate blessed enough to have passed some of her youth in Iowa. There she talks about graduating from high school in Des Moines, and about having her wedding reception at the Des Moines airport. The expression "doggone it" makes its sudden debut in her vocabulary, as does the word "husband"; back East, she seems always to refer to her "spouse."

"Patsy" Scott was born in Portland, Ore., the elder of Bernice and Lee Scott's two children. In a short manuscript Lee wrote a few years back about his famous daughter, he noted, "Bernice had a cousin named Wanda and felt that Wanda Lee would be a good name for the baby ... I argued for Patricia on the theory that if she turned out to be a very feminine little creature the name would be applicable and if she turned out to be the kind of a tomboy I suspected she would, we could use the name Pat."

Bernice was a first-grade teacher -- a fact that Schroeder says explains a lot, from her lifelong assumption that women hold jobs, to the infamous bunny suit (elementary school teachers never miss a holiday, she explains). Lee, who started his career in construction and real estate, shifted into aviation when World War II started, and ultimately opened his own aviation insurance business. The Scotts, who own a Denver condominium building with the Schroeders, just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

By the time Schroeder entered high school in Des Moines, she had lived in six other towns, as varied as North Platte, Neb., and Dallas. Her father wrote that Pat's childhood was "an odyssey of being the new girl in town who wore glasses and was always too tall for her age."

The glasses, which she started wearing at 1 1/2, were to treat an eye condition inherited from him. "She woke up one morning cross-eyed," says Bernice Scott. She rarely wears her glasses in public now, but her brother Mike, who practices law in Denver, says, "If she's tired her eyes will -- you can see 'em just starting to cross a little bit if she's not wearing her glasses."

"She wasn't the most attractive thing you ever saw in junior high and high school," is Mike's brotherly assessment. "In junior high she looked like a twig, with glasses ... skin and bones, tall and gangly."

She was known as "Pious Pat," she told an interviewer for womenSports magazine in 1977; "It was absolutely awful ... I was the one that said, 'No, we can't tie tin cans to the dog's tail.' " But she was an avowed tomboy, and fearless, according to all the Scotts: about snakes and spiders as a little girl; about drag-racing on the streets of Des Moines once she learned to drive; and, although she no longer has a pilot's license, about learning to fly.

At Roosevelt High, where she was "about a straight-A student," her mother says, she was involved in the Spanish Club, the yearbook staff, the forensics club, pep clubs for the football and basketball teams, and the math-science club. She was also a Girl Scout, her mother says, and active in the Congregational Church in Des Moines.

But "I don't think she enjoyed being a kid," says Pat Schroeder's daughter Jamie. "She sort of said things like, 'Well, I hated elementary school and high school' ... She liked the mischievous aspect of {being a child}, but she didn't like the having to relate to other kids part of it."

Pat Scott graduated in three years, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Minnesota, where she had advisers who urged her to consider motherhood as a career. "Luckily, I always had a home where mother was working and stuff; that countervailed it, but it was interesting to see how evilly channeled people can get by that."

Harvard Law School was a shock. "We were such tokens," she says of the dozen or so women among more than 500 men.

"I found Harvard very intimidating ... You have guys saying they're going to change their {assigned} seats because they've never sat next to a woman in their entire educational career, and they weren't gonna start now ...

"That was really preparation for the real world," she continues. "It was like Marine boot camp. It was such a jolt."

But she met Jim Schroeder there, marrying him at the end of their first year, and when they graduated in 1964 they decided to settle in Denver. "Colorado is -- you know, everybody came from somewhere else," says Jim. "It was growing, and it was fluid, and everybody felt they had a chance to affect what was going on."

Conflicts & the Candidacy "I don't know why I'm supporting you," gushed a woman at the Atlanta fundraiser. "But I'm here tonight to find out."

Schroeder is careful, on the stump, to advertise the areas in which she is one of the boys: her 15 years on the Armed Services Committee; her appointment as a deputy whip, with responsibility for arms control legislation. She speaks of the need to "get over the hurdle of the novelty act," and often bridles even as she answers questions about her family and home life, saying, "The question is, can you get over all that stuff and ever get to talk about issues?" Lately she has taken to quoting Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vince Lombardi.

Yet again and again, in large and small ways, she sells herself as a candidate of and for women, and this is the tension at the heart of her campaign. Whenever she comments, as she often does, that "our whole foreign policy {is} being driven by our glands, and not our brains," whenever she tells her story about arriving in Washington and informing a skeptical congressman, "I have a brain and a uterus, and I can use them both," she is embracing women in a way that appears to exclude men.

To many, if not most, veteran women political professionals, such talk marks the Schroeder campaign as unserious -- laudable, deserving of encouragement, a no-lose exercise in acclimating America to female candidates, but unserious nonetheless.

"I wish we had somebody in a stronger position to make the run," says Joan McLean, a member of Team A, the group of feminist activists that helped position Geraldine Ferraro for the vice presidential nomination in 1984. "I would support her decision to run. ... but I'm waiting for {a campaign} in which we have worked for two or three years."

McLean notes that some feminists are motivated to get involved in politics by a belief that "women bring a different perspective, a different way of doing things." Others -- and these tend to be the ones who have been involved in traditional politics since the McGovern campaign -- would settle for earning women an equal shot at doing things the way men do. Whereas Schroeder might attract a coterie of the former group, McLean says, "the real signal that a candidacy is being taken seriously is if you see the {latter} political group actively taking part in the primary battle."

There is also some criticism of Schroeder in movement circles. "She is a good feminist," says one woman activist, "but you sometimes get the feeling that she wants to be the only feminist on the Hill."

"She's always been a woman who liked to be first," says another Hill source. "She told me once how she looked forward to not being the first woman at everything, but I think she kind of enjoys it."

In 1984 Schroeder was widely mentioned as a possibility for the "first" laurel that went to Ferraro, who was six years her junior in the House.

"When a woman on the ticket seemed like it was worth taking a look at, we did take a look at Pat Schroeder," says McLean. "Certainly on feminist issues she was as strong, some might even say stronger than Ferraro. But on partisan issues, she wasn't as strong as Ferraro; she had not spent as much time building support in the House." It was also a drawback that she was the cochairman of Hart's campaign; Ferraro had supported Mondale from the start.

Despite the logic of the political calculus, Schroeder was reportedly angered by Ferraro's selection. She was apparently taken by surprise at the June 1984 National Organization for Women convention in Miami, when her House colleagues Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Mary Rose Oakar (Ohio) and Barbara Kennelly (Conn.) threw their support to Ferraro. "That she was distressed at the action, I think, is pretty clear," says Judy Goldsmith, who was NOW president at the time.

Eyebrows were raised when Schroeder failed to appear on stage with the four other women, but Schroeder says "whoever was in charge of the convention" asked her not to be on stage. "Because they said they didn't want Hart people on stage. I was really hurt by that," she said.

But Goldsmith says, "Oh no, no. Whether somebody ... said that to her, I have no idea. But that was certainly not our official position. There was absolutely no possibility that we would have failed to invite her on the stage because she was a Hart supporter."

Schroeder also denies having any interest in the vice presidential nomination -- then or now. "I mean, I really wouldn't have taken it if they'd asked me anyway. I just wouldn't have done it. I had a lot of people mad at me because I kept saying, 'If we're going to do this thing, we've got to do it the same way the men do ... You've got to go out and run."

But in October 1983 she told The Washington Post, "Sure, I'd accept a spot on the ticket. It's like going to a dance, you have to wait to see who is asked."

So is she running for vice president now? "I'm too independent. I mean, I truly understand that the establishment doesn't want me in those kind of roles ... I understand their feelings about me, I respect that, that they want The Team Player. The Cheerleader."

She says she never even thought about the presidency until this year, when Hart's sudden stumble left an opening. Until May, she was again the cochair of a Hart-for-president campaign, and he looked to be a major piece of the Democratic political landscape for years to come.

Now she says: "The only reason I'm doing it, or looking at doing it, is that I've been so frustrated, the last seven years, by how I've seen things go ... I mean, even when you win, you lose. You beat the president on contra aid, so what? He's gonna do it anyway. You know? You win on whistleblowers, so he appoints some guy that feeds 'em all to the lions ...

"You suddenly think, well, if you don't go out and talk about it, and see if there's anybody else who feels the same way, then you're part of the problem."

Doggedly Different A young man in a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, audience tosses Schroeder a lob, inviting her to give her opinion of the Ayatollah Khomeini and of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Given this chance to show that she can fulminate just like a guy, she begins promisingly, calling Khomeini "a total menace."

But she seems perversely determined to smash this lob into the net. "As a woman I probably feel more intimidated than anyone else," she continues, "because his idea of where women belong is not exactly what I had in mind." No one at this event has asked a question even remotely touching on Schroeder's gender, but she is off on a rambling memory of going to Tehran just before the fall of the shah, and meeting with women who did not believe the liberalization of Iran could be reversed. By the time she is done she has puzzled all present by saying without elaboration that Tehran reminds her of Denver.

In short, she is doing her politics just the way she has always done them: Off the top of her head, in most cases without a formal speech before her, up close and personal. What one Hill source says of her performance in Congress is equally true of her act on the road: "She varies between brilliance and flakiness ... When she's brilliant, she has these terrifically quotable lines that make the opposition look like fools; she does it in a spirited but also dignified way ... But I don't regard Pat as someone you can count on in debate to really deliver the goods, because you never know what phase she's going to be in."

Politicians, no less than other performers, have their good days and their bad. But with Schroeder, the inconsistency seems almost willful; winging it seems a point of pride. It is something more than the shtick, familiar from Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, of the politician who runs against Washington.

What is at work is Pat Schroeder's apparent belief -- and the belief of the people around her -- that any magic she holds is tied up with her inconsistency, her informality, her insouciance. "If she wasn't like that, for all we know, she could be a floor manager of a J.C. Penney," says Dan Buck, her administrative assistant. "She might not even be here."

Or, in her words, "I try to take whatever I'm doing seriously, but I've never taken myself very seriously. I think if you start taking yourself real seriously you're in trouble."

Whether from humility or from arrogance, Schroeder may be unable to jump through the same hoops of presidential party politics as her six potential rivals for the Democratic nomination, all of whom may be said to take themselves real seriously.

Just lately, she has started to talk openly about this conflict between her style and her ambitions. Now that the money is coming in, she says she is hesitating, as much as anything else, over the dreary prospect of "being a presidential candidate like all the other guys I see out there ... I keep asking, can somebody give me a model of a nontraditional way to run a campaign?"

Schroeder is listening, hoping to hear her future tiptoe up behind her.