Virginia Democratic Lt. Gov. Richard J. Davis sat alone today, waiting here in the vast Colony ballroom of the Hotel John Marshall, surrounded by empty wooden tables and chairs stacked high.
Soon, Davis would go to a basement exhibition hall where he would be cheered by about 200 leaders of the state Democratic Party, and where there would be tears from some, for his campaign for governor that was not to be.
For the moment, though, the isolation was a sad but fitting political image for the 63-year-old Davis -- the excitement and hectic pace of his million-dollar campaign over -- as he waited for his former rival, state Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles.
On Friday, Davis had agreed to step aside, giving up an increasingly bitter fight over the party's nomination and clearing the way for Baliles, 45, to carry the Democratic Party banner against the Republicans in the fall.
Baliles and Davis, who has agreed to seek the state party chairmanship in a show of unity, talked briefly today then made their way to the State Central Committee. The ruling party organization initially had been called together to help settle Davis' challenge of hundreds of Baliles delegates elected to the party's June 7 nominating convention in Richmond.
Instead of a Sunday blood bath, which many feared would leave them weak and divided no matter the outcome, the party leaders reveled in their new-found unity, hoping to leave behind quickly the past few weeks of party turmoil.
"There comes a time when we all must come together as one," Davis said today, quoting the verse of the popular famine relief song, "We Are the World."
Davis, in another symbolic gesture to the winner, then left the stage to Baliles.
"It's a new chance for us to plan and organize and heal divisions," Baliles said in a brief speech that lavished praise on Davis and Del. Richard M. Bagley, who agreed not to seek the party chairmanship as part of the unity deal with Davis.
Today capped several days of political drama that included transatlantic telephone calls, midnight meetings in a Richmond motel room and a late-night vigil by Davis in the Portsmouth mortgage banker's office where he became a millionaire, before he finally decided to drop out.
Just after midnight Thursday, Davis aides said, he made his final decision, then picked up the telephone and called Richmond for Bobby Watson, 29, his longtime aide, friend and chief strategist.
"It was a very important day for the party," Watson said. "It took a lot from us to do what we did. Davis was not going to be remembered for tearing apart the party."
Watson earlier had advised Davis during a lengthy meeting in Portsmouth that the challenges against Baliles could not be won without inflicting a heavy toll on the party:
* Gone was the upbeat public assessment of the delegate challenges. Hard-nosed reviews of the challenges by many, including Robb, had found them unpersuasive.
* A potentially lucrative pool of uncommitted delegates -- which Davis had lobbied hurriedly -- were mostly in rural areas that clearly favored Baliles. Few rushed to join Davis.
* Davis, with a debt of more than $100,000, had spent $1 million and faced the prospect of mushrooming expenses to carry the fight to the convention.
* Today's meeting, if held as scheduled, would have been a crucial turning point that might have locked Davis in to the bitter fight through the convention. Davis himself said it looked as if it might be the "shootout at the OK Corral. I wanted to avoid that."
* Robb, who cannot succeed himself, wanted the divisiveness resolved before he left for Israel. It wasn't, but he stayed on the transatlantic telephone, urging Davis to concede.
At home, Robb's chief of staff, David A. McCloud, worked feverishly to keep on track the developing agreement to withdraw, painfully aware that four other attempts at mediation had failed.
Arlington County Board Chairman John G. Milliken, a Davis backer, confirmed today that he was one of the party leaders who had been increasingly worried about the Davis strategy, but had taken no public action in hopes that it would be resolved. Fairfax County Board Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino, another Davis backer, already had switched to Baliles.
The Baliles campaign saw it as "a war of attrition" as Davis was confronted with mounting problems.
"It's a wearing experience that takes a toll on the staff," said Darrel Martin, Baliles' campaign manager. "You had a series of events that could be interpreted as pressures, none of them by themselves all that strong, but as an accumulation added up to Davis' withdrawal ."
It was Martin, who had met with Watson after Davis' telephone call to Richmond, who called Baliles at 1:30 a.m. Friday to tell him that Davis would pull out, announcing it at a morning news conference.
"I think we've done it," Martin recalled saying to Baliles, still awake at the Tysons Corner Westpark Hotel where he was preparing a speech on transportation issues for an appearance the next morning before developers.
Baliles "asked me more questions about tranportation issues than the agreement," Martin laughed.
But a few hours later, after Davis canceled his own Tysons Corner appearance for what publicly was called "personal reasons," Baliles rushed by helicopter to Davis' hastily called news conference in Richmond.
Baliles, in an interview today at his suburban Richmond home, said it was not until later "that I suddenly realized what had happened."
The party contest was finally over.
At the Davis headquarters, there was relief, sadness and pride.
"Mr. Davis himself realized the important thing was to have a Democrat in the governor's mansion," said state labor commissioner Eva Teig, a close friend and former aide to Davis. "We all worked too long and too hard to put the party back together for this to tear it apart."