Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) is confident of his political organization's ability to get voters out on Tuesday.
"If I died on the way to my car right now, I still could possibly win on Tuesday," Parris said this week.
"Whatever happens now, we're almost on automatic pilot," said his aide Dick Leggitt. "It's a matter of taking your hands off the steering wheel and letting the machinery take over."
Tomorrow the Parris get-out-the vote organization will get to work in Northern Virginia's 8th Congressional District. About 70,000 households identified as pro-Parris will be called, reminding them to vote on Tuesday. Telegrams will follow. And if poll watchers have not checked off their names by noon Tuesday, they will be called again.
State Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, the Democratic challenger, also has a get-out-the vote operation, although a less extensive one. Saslaw is targeting key precincts, rather than making a district-wide effort. And there will be no telegrams.
Saslaw has less than one-third the amount of money raised by Parris, who received almost $800,000 in campaign contributions. Saslaw is thus depending on lower-cost items such as campaign posters to remind voters of his name.
Saslaw's staff said Parris' political machine has been busy doing more than preparing to get out voters Tuesday. Recently, Saslaw's supporters have been insensed over what they refer to as the "signs war" in the 8th District.
"As soon as our signs went up, they were getting torn down," Saslaw spokesman Joe Gleason said, adding that about 2,000 Saslaw signs were destroyed. "We were just getting creamed."
"They're the ones," Leggitt countercharged. "They've torn down about 5,000 of our signs."
Both sides deny that they've torn down the signs of the opposition.
The 8th District includes Alexandria, and southern Fairfax and eastern Prince William and northern Stafford counties. Saslaw has tried to paint Parris as far too conservative for the Washington suburban district, and to portray himself as a moderate-to-conservative Democrat.
A third candidate, Donald W. Carpenter of Alexandria is running as an independent but is not believed to be a factor in the outcome of the race, according to the campaign staffs of Parris and Saslaw.
Saslaw's staff attacked Parris on another front this week when Gleason charged that Parris' campaign commercials "overstated" his role in congressional actions helping Northern Virginia. A Parris ad said: "He [Parris] secured the funds to resurface the Woodrow Wilson Bridge." A Saslaw memo said that Rep. Marjorie Holt (R-Md) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) were responsible, not Parris.
Leggitt responded that Holt and Wolf may have led the floor fight, but Parris was active for weeks behind the scenes. Holt and Wolf said that Parris played a key role. "It takes a lot of people to get these things through," Holt said. Gleason replied that the clear intent of the ad was to make it look as if Parris had been the leader on the issue.
Despite the pounding by Saslaw, Parris confidently predicted victory, saying his polls show him comfortably ahead. Saslaw countered that his polls show he is edging closer to victory each day.
Saslaw has stressed his sponsorship of tough crime bills in the General Assembly, particularly a bill making it easier to try teen-agers as adults when they are charged with violent crimes. He has also attacked Parris for opposing the Voting Rights Act and a nuclear freeze. He said Parris' support of the Equal Rights Amendment was lukewarm, while he himself supports the ERA wholeheartedly, with no amendments or changes.
Saslaw also faulted Parris for saying he would never vote to raise taxes. Saslaw said that given the huge federal deficit, Parris' position is "an irresponsible approach." Parris responded that his polls show that voters are strongly opposed to any tax increase.
Parris points to his polls when asked why he is so optimistic. "I believe in those," he said. As he shook hands with a woman at the Huntington Metro station this week, Parris assured her: "I'm all right, but you be sure and vote for the president."