Six days before his death, Dick Obenshain crossed the Virginia border into Washington and drove to the U.S. Capitol where he believed he would soon be working.

It was late July, and the 42-year-old Republican already had a month of 12-hour campaign days under his belt. A lot of that effort was going to raise money, and that was why he awas at the Capitol Hill Club, the GOP's private club a block from the Capitol.

The hors d'oeuvre tables were loaded, the bar was serving Virginia Gentleman, and the three-piece band was playing. But the turnout was not large, and the financial take would not be either.

A number of Republican senators had been invited, but only Charles Percy of Illinois showed up. Obenshain shook his hand and said, "Thank you so much for coming by, senator."

Percy replied that he hoped Obenshain would soon be on the Hill permanently, the two chatted for a while, and Percy left.

The slight, bespectacled would-be senator remained near the door, shaking hands, unfailingly polite.

It was nearly 7:30, and with Obenshain soon due at Gunston Hall for another reception, his campaign aides began trying to move him out the door. It took 10 minutes as he thanked the bartenders, the musicians and everyone else in sight.

The 40-minute ride to southern Fairfax County had been the only time he could break free for an interview, and he and a reporter climbed into the back seat of a car driven by one of his campaign workers.

Obenshain answered questions focusing on his campaign apparatus frankly, but would lapse into silence if the questioning lagged. Some politicians are born and some are made. Obenshain appeared to be made.

He was not outgoing or quotable, profane or colorful. He took care to point out that he had been a candidate before he became the party technician given major credit for building a machine which had wiped out the Democrats in statewide election after election.

"My biggest strength is the incredible level of unity and enthusiasm among the Republican troops," Obenshain said.

"My weakness, relatively speaking is that I'm not as well known as Andy Miller," he said.

"I've been campaigning since November and hard since January," he said. "I don't think it will be hard to maintain enthusiasm. You're surrounded by your friends - fellow Republicans - and that kind of sweeps you along."

When he reached Gunston Hall, George Mason's home, Obenshain clambered out of the back seat, unrecognized by workers for House candidate Jack Herrity who tried to give him a fistful of campaign literature.

Obenshain quickly joined Gov. John Dalton and Herrity in a receiving time for an hour of shaking hands with the Republican faithful.

After another hour of mingling with workers and contributors, Obenshain and his wife and a driver got in a car for the two-hour drive back to his home near Richmond where another summer day would end well after midnight.

The next day would bring more of the same - meetings, fund raising, shaking hands, reviving up campaign workers, making speeches. Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Southside, the Valley.

"I've been moving around the state so quickly I don't have detailed familiarity with everybody on my staff," he said.

There were still more than three months to go before the election. Cars arranged to shuttle the candidate from meeting to meeting to appearance to speech cocktail party. Cars to take him to airports, small planes to shuttle him home, day flights, night flights.

Candidates do it because they must, and because they enjoy it, being the star, getting the attention, being met by the drivers and pilots.

Except in rare instances there is no sense of hazard, no time for fear or caution. Candidates are all going to win. No one is going to lose. No one is going to admit to being tired, admit that endless repetition, endless handshaking is not a pleasure.

It's the way to win, to be the people's candidate. And if you have to start in January for the primary and June for the November election, so be it.

"Campaigns don't wait to Labor Day anymore to get started," Obenshain said wih enthusiasm six nights before he left Winchester on a routine flight to Chesterfield County.

If they did, he would still be alive.