The left-over liberals who gather at Nathan's restaurant and bar in Georgetown, mid-level executives who want a Mercedes but cannot afford one, and free-thinkers who miss the stimulation of their college coffee-house days, are voting for Ronald Reagan.
President Jimmy Carter is more in tune with their social philosophy, they say, but they are convinced that only Reagan can restore America's military might. So, even though they disagree with Reagan's opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and his antiabortion views, a lot of them plan to close their eyes Tuesday and vote Republican.
Now, that they've finally got a piece of the rock, they want it protected.
"I've voted Democratic all my life, says Burt Whaley, a 40ish, free-lance writer and regular at Nathan's, who keeps brushing his shoulder-length, silver hair from in front of his eyes with his cigarette hand, keeping the other on his drink.
"Carter is pusillanimous, especially in foreign policy," Whaley says. "I don't like Reagan's domestic ideas. I don't like his advisers. And I really don't like him that much, but I think he is strong in foreign policy so I'm making the big jump. I'm voting Republican this year for the first time."
"Look, I strongly support women's issues, the ERA and abortion, but they aren't the real issues this year," says Josephine Philbin, a 30-year-old D.C. stockbroker, who stares straight into your eyes when she speaks, concentrating on each carefully chosen word.
"I'm a tall woman. I'm a strong woman. When other kids picked on my brothers and sisters, I went over and grabbed them and told them I was going to do to them what they had done to my brothers and sisters.
"They quit picking on my brothers and sisters because they knew I would get them," she says.
"You got to be the bully on the block if you want to survive and we aren't the bully any longer. Jimmy Carter is responsible. France sells grain to the Russians and laughs at us.Unless we got the muscle, we won't have the clout or friends. I just wish America would grow up," Philbin says.
"How can you vote for Reagan"? asks Joan Kashub, a former cosmetic outlet manager in her late 20s, perched on a bar stool next to Whaley.
"Liberals really don't have a choice this year," she moans. "I'm not voting for Carter. He hasn't done anything in four years and he wouldn't do anything in four more. And Reagan, well, he's a joke. Did you watch the debates?
"I started to watch them, honest to God," Kashub continues, "but I fell asleep. Really, I filed my nails and everything trying to stay awake, but come on, it was BORING.
"I'm going to vote for some other candidate -- not Reagan or Carter."
Kashub and Whaley began arguing and Philbin began telling them both off. Bartenders Bill O'Brien, a stocky, bearded man, and Mike Kelly, a burly Irishman, chuckled at the trio and just kept pouring drinks.
"I hope everyone votes for [independent candidate John] Anderson," says Kelly, in a thick Irish brogue as he pushes a draft of beer across the worn bar. "Maybe if Anderson got enough votes, it would scare the two parties into coming up with better candidates."
The small bar, with its green-shaded lights and plastic fern plants, is crowded. Philbin is doing a rumba across the white tile floor with another regular customer who is wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket. In the corner two men sit with their arms around each other. Everyone is friendly, everyone is white, everyone is talking too loudly and laughing too long at mediocre jokes about sex, dope, and politics.
The women are in their late 20s or early 30s, smart, ambitious wage-earners dressed in designer jeans and expensive wool blazers. They are single and many are divorced. They are looking for some meaningful dialogue.
The men are older, late 30s and up, too old for the disco scene. They have the basic male look: beards and mustaches, thick wool sweaters or silk shirts unbuttoned low to reveal lots of chest hair, braided gold chains wrapped around necks and wrists, tan leather coats. They stand at the bar, shuffling their feet, searching for fresh female faces.
Tucked behind a small table away from the bar, Judy Jaicks, a graduate student at American University, and her boyfriend, George Fortmuller, an assitant film producer from Hollywood, are praising Carter.
"Carter really cares about the America people," says Jaicks, "Reagan just isn't a leader at all."
"We're about to enter a very tough period," says Fortmuller, who helped produce "Blind Ambition," a made-for-television special about former White House counsel John Dean. "I don't think it would be real smart to put in someone without any real experience. At least Carter's done the job before." s
Meanwhile, back at the bar, Whaley and Kashub are still arguing. Sensing that he is losing ground, Whaley decides to answer Kashub's question about whether he watched the debates.
"A friend invited me over to watch the great debate," he interjects suddenly, "but we started messing around before they started and ended up making love through the whole damn thing."
The argument was finished.