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‘Fabulous Dwarfettes’ Debut in Des Moines

July 27, 1987

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Wives of six Democratic presidential contenders sipped iced tea, mingled and made earnest pitches for their husbands Sunday as they outined their hoped-for role in the White House.

One proposed eliminating the title ″First Lady,″ while another kidded about a collection of wives with names like ″Tipper,″ ″Kitty,″ and ″Hattie.″

All six pledged to be activists in the White House in the mold of Eleanor Roosevelt, and all paid homage to famous Democratic first ladies.

″One of us up here will join that illustrious group, and the rest of us will go on and we’ll look through life for regular adult names,″ said Hattie Babbitt, wife of former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt.

The event, organized by central Iowa Democratic activists, was designed to give voters a first-hand look at a possible future first lady.

On the sidelines, a nervous Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden sat and twisted his hands while his wife, Jill, spoke.

″I’m glad that’s over,″ Biden said. ″No, I don’t think this should be a regular thing. I couldn’t take being this nervous, this is too hard on the candidate. It’s like watching my daughter perform, or my son compete.″

When a reporter asked Biden a question, he gestured toward his wife who was surrounded by television cameras and said ″Ask her, it’s her day.″

Though all the wives were invited to talk about their roles, they made it clear they were working to boost their husbands’ hopes.

″Obviously I represent my husband who is running for the presidency,″ said Kitty Dukakis, wife of Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

The event drew intense attention, as expected, in light of the withdrawal of Gary Hart of Colorado from the race after disclosures linking him romantically to Miami model Donna Rice.

″I think the Gary Hart episode has definitely enahanced the interest in this event,″ said Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Phil Roeder.

″Campaign strategists may or may not go to the White House, but you can bet one thing - the spouse will be upstairs,″ said Ruth Harkin, wife of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and moderator of the event.

″Here we we are. Hattie, Kitty, Tipper, Jill, Jane and Jeanne, or as I prefer, the fabulous dwarfettes,″ said Mrs. Babbitt, who reminded the audience that the women won’t be on the ballot.

Jeanne Simon, wife of Illinois Sen. Paul Simon, suggested eliminating the title of ″First Lady.″

″In the White House, I want to become an ‘ombudswoman’ for the American people,″ said Mrs. Simon. ″I want to earn that title by visiting Americans at hom and at work.″

Mrs. Biden warned the activists that ″as a mother, my children are my first priority″ and said she would concentrate on children’s issues.

Mary Elizabeth Gore, usually known as ″Tipper,″ defended her role in seeking labeling of rock records according to content.

″I do not advocate censorship, legislation or any type of government action,″ Mrs. Gore said.

Mrs. Dukakis said she would focus on the homeless, and on helping southeast Asian refugees.

Jane Gephardt, wife of Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt said she also would concentrate on ″family″ issues.

There was some confusion about the status of Jacqueline Jackson. Mrs. Harkin told the crowd that Mrs. Jackson was ″traveling in the Soviet Union″ and unable to attend.

However, John Norris, Jackson’s Iowa campaign manager, said Mrs. Jackson wasn’t in the Soviet Union but scheduling conflicts caused by her plans led her to decline the invitation.

The husband of Colorado Rep. Pat Schroeder, who is contemplating a presidential run, was not invited because she isn’t stumping the state, Roeder said.

″They decided the cutoff point would be if they’re running in Iowa actively,″ Roeder said.

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