The door of the Danville Abstract and Title Co. burst open with a crash and a whirlwind named Terry L. Bruce came whooshing inside. "Hold onto your wallets, girls!" he shouted. "There's a politician on the premises!"
Bruce raced lickety-split to the back of the office to shake hands and pass out flyers among the half dozen middle-aged women working there.
I'm running for Congress!" he blurted. "Tuesday's primary! Democrat! I know you girls aren't old enough to vote yet, but I hope you'll go home and tell your mothers."
The "girls" just loved it. They broke out in embarrassed giggles, but by then Bruce was racing to Schipp's Jewelers down the street, stopping just long enough to thrust a brochure at a family of shoppers.
With time running out before the primary in Illinois' 22nd Congressional District, Bruce was "doing a Main Street," as he called it, in this neat city near the Indiana border. Despite the chipper energy he brought to the task, he was not particularly happy about it.
"It's just not an effective vote-getter," he complained. "One out of three people you hit is registered, and only one in 10 of them is going to vote in the primary.
Bruce had had better things in mind when he arrived here Friday morning. He planned to see the editorial writer at the Danville Commercial News and then move on to Westville, a Democratic stronghold three miles south, to see some key party workers. But somebody had forgotten to arrange the newspaper visit. And Westville Democrats couldn't be reached. So Bruce was making the best of middled schedule has become a daily regsix others battling for the 22nd's seat in Congress, making the best of a middled schedue has become a daily regimen.
The sudden announcement last fall that George Shipley, the district's veteran congressman, would not seek election drew three Republicans and four Democrats into a wide-open campaign. All were determined at the outset to make their races models of business like efficiency.
In the daily reality of life on the hustings, however, most of those bestlaid plans have gone away.
Three of the hopefuls came into the race with campaign experience. Bruce, a state senator, had worked at politics virtually fulltime since finishing law school in 1969. His chief opponent on the Democratic ballot, Don Watson, is Shipley's brother-in-law and served as his campaign manager in 10 elections.
The old pro on the Republican side is Roscoe Cunningham, a silver-tongued state legislator who has won a dozen elections (closing one) since entering politics in 1952.
To counter Cunningham's experince, his two GOP opponents enrolled in candidates' school last year to learn the ropes.
Gene Stunkel, a hard-charging businessman, went to Wichita to learn at the feet of Hank Parkinson, a political veteran who trains hundreds of neophyte campaighers for an election year.
Parkinson is a proponent of the "New Politics" - that is, mass media - and he helped Stunkel put together six slick television commercials and several radio spots. Stunkel has dug into his own deep pockets to buy about $40,000 worth of broadcast time for a saturation media effort.
The other Republican, Dan Crane, a Danville dentist and a leader of the local party's Reaganite wing, went to a different school and learned a different lesson. He studied under Paul M. Weyrich and Ricard A. Viguerie, two leaders of the nationwide "New Right" movement.
Viguerie sells direct-mail services to conservative candidates, and he recommended that Crane concentrate on mail, rather than media. During the past month, according, Crane has spent about $25,000 to deluge a select group of voters with more than a quater million pieces of mail.
The other two candidates, Dave Hill and Timothy Thut, both young Democrats, had neither experience nor money to buy it, so they set out to wage a shoe-leather campaign trying to shake as many hands as possible by tomorrow's primaries.
All seven candidates, in fact, have spent a great deal of time shaking hands, even though most agree with Bruce's judgement that it is inefficient. They do it, however, because they often don't have anything else to do.
A daily campaign schedule is built around an "event" - a farm bureau meeting, a radio inerview, a county party conference, or anything else the candidates can use to appear in public.
The seven quickly learned that there are rarely two "events in the same county on the same day. Thus they spend hours, even whole days, driving to an "event" and waiting for it to start. To fill the time, they shake hands in the town square.
At the start of the campaign, the candidates put considerable effort into winning local champions among leaders in the 22nd's scattered towns. But those have turned out to be mixed blessings.
Crane, for example, kept receiving pleas from his chief supporter in Fairfield, a tiny farm town three hours' drive south of here, for him to visit. He gave in last Thursday. When he got there, the local man shook his head and said, "I never thought you'd really come, so I didn't set anything up.
Crane did better Saturday, though, in Chrisman, where he had won (in a struggle with Stunkel) the support of Harry (Babe) Woodyard, an aticulate farmer universally acclaimed the "nicest guy in town."
Woodyard escorted Crane through the town's bank, post office, seed store and coffee shop, greeting friends at each stop. "If this Crane's good enough for Babe, he's good ehough for me," said Helen Knight, a Chrisman native, and the sentiment was enchoed time and again.
Bruce, too, had a good day last week when he flew his plane to 14 towns to announce an endorsement form the National Education Association.
"It went off great!" he said later.
"We'd get off the plane, the local teacher would give speech - Bruce is the world's greatest guy' - then I'd give a speech - 'Yeah, I'm the world's greatest guy' - we'd give the paper a photo, and we'd fly to the next place.
"And the next day we were on the front pages of, like, the Casey Daily Reporter, the Hillsboro paper, that paper in Woequa, the Sullivan paper carried it [on the] front page. You know, just, it was news because, you know, I was in Sullivan."
But veteran democrats here were not sure whether Bruce's coup would make much difference. For that matter, nobody in either Party was sure what would matter int he Primaries. With one day to go it was still a horserace.
Next: The Final Day