Ich Bin Ein Blair?

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BONN: The momentum building behind Gerhard Schroeder, the charismatic centrist candidate for chancelor of Germany’s opposition Social Democrats, has Helmut Kohl’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) battling to reposition itself —- and journalists reaching for the Tony Blair analogy.

Which is certainly tempting. Schroeder's experience fits well with Europe’s new-left politics of the ’90s, in which leaders of traditional social-democratic parties such as Blair and Lionel Jospin implement a center-right economic program. But as TIME’s Bonn bureau chief Jordan Bonfante warns, the analogy has its limits: “While Schroeder would like nothing more than to be likened to Blair, the major difference is that the Christian Democrats are not the Tories,” says Bonfante. “Where Blair faced a decrepit and unpopular party, the CDU is still a strong and vigorous political force.” And Chancellor Kohl is no Prime Minister Major. As Schroeder's four predecessors found, it's none too easy to write off the West’s longest-serving leader.