Only supporters of Jimmy Carter would travel all the way up from Georgia to barbecue 800 pounds of pork on the South Lawn of the White House for 1,400 of their closest friends.
They figured he needed it, too. "When we planned this two months ago," said Dexter, Ga., banker Cecil Passmore, one of many from Laurens County, Ga., who helped arrange the feast, "we didn't know there was going to be a Billygate. This is like divine intervention. This is a time when the president is being kicked. He needs to know his friends are still here."
And indeed he did know. "When I didn't have friends, you were my friends; when I was having difficulty politically, you were there," he told them. "I don't like to lose elections. I don't intend to lose this one. And you're going to make sure I don't."
Jimmy and Rosalynn spent a good part of the early evening, before Doc Watson came out to play his bluegrass guitar and Bill Monroe came out to sing, just working the crowd, walking across the lawn.
Their guests mobbed them, forming tight circles, one around the president on one part of the lawn and another around Mrs. Carter on another part of the lawn. Expectant faces lit up when they got close. President and Mrs. Carter could simply stop in one place and turn around slowly for a while before running out of a new hand to shake, cheek to kiss, snapshot to smile for.
"Uhmmmm, isn't she beautiful?" murmured Rose Shoptaw of Dublin, Ga.
"He's my man," said Edna Hampshire, from DeKalb County, Ga., her long brassy blond hair wavy, the voice appropriately southern. "I've been supporting him since '66, and I worked in his campaign in Colony Square Headquarters. That was when he won in '76. And I'm a member of the 1980 Club. I'm the co-chairman of the telephone committee. We drove 600 miles here with our 24-year-old daughter. She's in the 1980 Club, too."
So they all were -- in a manner of speaking. And while Democratic congressmen up for reelection agonize over whether or not their party ties to Carter might blow their chances, the Georgians all came professing devotion at the least and close personal friendship, advisership, or kinship, at the most.
"Let me tell you something," said Henry Hart from Americus, Ga., pointing to his cousin, Jean Subers from Miami, "her grandmother was a Carter before she married. And her great-great-grandfather and Jimmy Carter's great-great-grandfather are one and nodded that this was so.
"I believe in Mr. Carter," said Rev. William Corley, who drove up from Lawrenceville, Ga. "That's where Larry Flynt got shot," he said, grinning. "That made Lawrenceville famous."
This is the crowd that says of Billy Carter that, well, brothers will be brothers. "Every family has someone they have a problem with," said Edna Hampshire, philosphically. Although some were not that forgiving of Billy. "I do not agree with Billy's life style," said Jim Shoptaw.
And as far as polls go -- polls, shmolls. "That'll change," they all said in one way or another.
Cecil Passmore, the Dexter (population 500) banker, likes to think barbecues change things like polls. Back in 1970, Passmore put on a barbecue when Carter was running for governor and was low in the polls. "Everyone said he couldn't win," said Passmore, in a green and white shirt standing next to his wife Fay in a green tube top. (Green and white are the Carter colors.) "Three thousand people showed up at that barbecue. Carter always said that was the turning point in that campaign for him. This might be the turning point in this campaign," he said, patting his wife's shoulder.