Guy O. Farley Jr. couldn't lose. Margaret A. DePaoli knew that as sure as she knew the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed.
So when the born-again Farley, already under pressure from Republican Party leaders to withdraw, suddenly dropped his bid for the GOP's lieutenant governor nomination at the weekend convention here, delegate DePaoli went on the warpath.
"Phooey on them," said DePaoli, a conservative Vienna housewife whose concern about "American moral decay," abortion and patriotism brought her more than 200 miles to cast her vote for Farley. "They (party elders) tried to shove their candidate down our throats. I didn't want them telling me what to do."
In the end it was DePaoli and others like her -- conservative, white, upper middle-class Republicans from the state's burgeoning suburbs -- who helped fuel a revolt against the party leadership that gave the nomination for running mate to maverick state Sen. Nathan H. Miller.
Angry at efforts by Gov. John N. Dalton and former governor Mills E. Godwin to discredit Farley's candidacy, they turned their backs on the establishment's choice, Herbert H. Bateman, in a show of spite that has party strategist worrying about the strength of the GOP ticket in November.
"All this push by the politicians down here smacked of the stodgy old white Anglo-Saxon Protestant coalition from Main Street Richmond," said DiPaoli, a Catholic whose religious background forms the foundation for her political views. "There were too many men with dark suits."
Many party workers say the support of Farley backers like DePaoli will be crucial in preventing a victory by the Democrats' moderate-conservative ticket this fall. But DePaoli and some of her friends say they are still a little leery of working for a party that was so willing to label them as right-wing extremists and cast them aside.
"I think you're seeing a lot fo frustration with a certain element of the party that wishes to stop the far right," said DePaoli's l9-year-old son Alex, who brought his Bible along to study on the beach. "But who's to say that our beliefs aren't as legitimate as theirs are?"
A mother of five, DePaoli divides her free time between her family, GOP politics, her tennis game and what she calls "all my little clubby things," a seemingly endless stream of fashion shows, community organizations and church groups.
Although she doesn't count herself among the followers of television evangelist Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, DePaoli might as well. At the top of her list of political priorties are many of the issues that Falwell prizes most: abortion (she's against it), pride in America (she's for it), immorality (she's against it) and discipline (she's for it).
The daughter of strict Catholic parents, De Paoli remembers her days in a girls-only college as the happiest time of her life. "It was such a secure environment," she says. "We'd have lunch at a beautiful table every day with the nuns presiding and teaching you manners."
DePaoli was looking for a Republican candidate who would be able to do something about what she sees as pressing social problems, like the proliferation of day care centers and "people who don't want to work."
She was looking for a candidate who could do something about what she sees as American's basic problem: "a lack of discipline in the schools, due to a lack of discipline at home, due to the fact that no one has to answer for anything anymore."
It is that lack of discipline, she says, that leads to "immoral teen-agers running around having children" and high school students who fritter away their time driving their parents' cars. "What are these twerps doing in these cars, anyway?" she asks.
Two years ago, DePaoli found such a candidate in Fairfax Del. John Buckley, a former national leader of the Young Americans for Freedom whose mother was one of the many Republican friends DePaoli had picked up in 18 years in Vienna. DePaoli ran Buckley's campaign on the strength of her women's club organizing skills, and managed to win him a berth in the statehouse.
She also found such a candidate in Ronald Reagan, whose virtue she describes in quasi-religious terms. "I'm so thrilled that such a good person honestly believed in this country and loved it enough to do this for us," she says.
DePaoli thought she had also found such a candidate in Farley, a born-again Warrenton attorney who is closely tied to the Reagan organization and seemed to her ideally qualified, as she said, to "preach the issues" to the voters of Virginia.
She hadn't really thought much about Miller or Bateman when she arrived at Virginia Beach Friday afternoon, nor was she terribly interested in all the party business that was to take up the convention's agenda its first full day.
Instead, she pulled up a blanket at her beach-side Holiday Inn room and basked in the sun all Friday afternoon while a few hardy delegates weathered the opening session at Virginia Beach's cavernous Pavilion.
"Don't worry," DePaoli told friends as she worked on her tan. "We'll just have our caucus on the beach."