For the most part, the main congressional political battles in November will be between the incumbents and the challengers. The smart money is on the incumbents, who are leading the challengers by odds of 8 to 1.
I visited the training camp of Sen. Sang Froid, who is up for reelection and has victory written all over him.
I talked to Artie Maytag, the senator's manager.
"Your boy looks good," I told him.
"We're taking this match seriously. We are asking every political action committee to double its contribution because we're tired of being known as the Filene's Basement of the Senate."
While we were talking, a man came up and gave Artie a satchel of bills.
"The senator blesses you," Artie told him. Then he explained to me who the man was. "He represents the solid-waste-hubcap industry, and they consider Sang the best friend they have on the Hill."
"Doesn't the lobbyist even get to go to a fund-raising dinner for that?" I asked.
"Dinners went out with narrow lapels. Now it's cash on the barrel, and the donor goes to the cafeteria of his choice. Frankly, even at $1,000 a plate, the food was never that good."
A woman in a jogging suit ran by and stuck a check in Artie's pocket.
"She's from the canned-halibut industry. The senator chairs all the legislation on canned fish. I'm glad she gave because that saves me having to buy her breakfast."
"Do the PACs ever distribute money to the challenger?"
"Why should they? The senator is their man -- the special interests aren't going to waste their resources on an unknown rookie. This guy coming by now distributes all the funds for the fruitcake makers of America. He knows where Sang stands on fruitcake -- so when he dumps his cash in that wastepaper basket over there, he's betting on Sang making fruitcake the national dessert of the country."
"The way things are going with the PACs, it appears that a challenger may never win an election."
"I wouldn't know about that. My job is to make sure that those people who expect the senator to do favors for them when he gets elected do right by him now. You remember Harry Tudoroff, the lobbyist for the bubble gum workers of America?"
"I remember him, but I haven't seen him around," I replied.
"The reason you haven't seen him around is that he split his PAC contributions during the last election between the senator and the challenger, and we kicked him out of our Boosters Club. From then on it was all downhill for him. When he couldn't even get his picture taken for National Bubble Gum Day with Sang Froid, he wound up sleeping on a bench in Lafayette Square."
A Brinks truck drove by and two guards started to unload the money.
Artie said, "That's the savings and loans' contribution. They bring one over every day hoping that the senator will bail them out."
"The senator has always believed that, while making a few mistakes, the S&Ls always had their hearts in the right place. They never said no to us during their good times. So he's not going to turn his back on them now."
"I wish there was some way that I could help, but I really don't have any legislation I want passed."
"It doesn't matter. We take money from honest citizens too."
1990, Los Angeles Times Syndicate