His wife was sobbing into one ear; 50 friends were shooting into the other. For Congressman-elect Dan Crane, it was all too much. "All right, you turkeys, knock it off!" Crane croaked in the sandpaper voice the long campaign had left him with. "I'm trying to talk to Terry."
It was 1:34 Wednesday morning when the Republican victory celebration at the Danville Boat Club was interrupted by the telephone call - the call Dan Crane had been dreaming of for 14 months, since he first entered the grueling contest for the House seat here in Illinois' 22nd Congressional District.
It was Terry Bruce on the line - Bruce, the likeable state senator who had been Crane's Democratic opponent. After a long, dismal night of perusing the precinct totals, Bruce had called to concede that Dan Crane captured the 22nd's seat.
At the end of an expensive and exhausting campaign that closed with a spate of mutual bitterness between the two camps, Crane had taken about 54 percent of the vote. (Final unofficial returns late yesterday showed Crane with 82,138 votes to Bruce's 77,874.)
It seemed safe to say that the farmers, factory hands, small businessmen and pensioners who populates the 22nd, a rural patch of east central Illinois about the size of the state of Maryland, had ended up with just the type of congressman they were looking for.
The electorate of the 22nd is conservative, skeptical in equal measure of big government, big business and big labor. They wanted their man in Washington to be a conservative whom they could trust not to surprise them.
Dan Crane seemed to fill the bill.
Of all the candidates who jumped into the 22nd's race last September, after the district's popular Democratic congressman, George Shipley, made the surprise announcement that he would retire this year, Crane was definitely farthest to the right. And voter who hear his intensely conservative - indeed, almost libertian - speeches on the issues could have been certain of that.
And although Crane fudged on a few issues, he was the only candidate in the race whose positions reflected a consistent philosophy of government - a philsophy that had been drilled into him for years by his oder brother Rep. Philip Crane (R-Ill.)
Bruce seemed to be the brightest of the district's congressional hopefuls, and with his widely praised record in the legislature, he was the most experienced candidate.But he was more liberal than Crane on every point, and more likely to duck tough issues with evasive answers.
Crane's campaign was successful because he had the money - nearly $400,000 from conservative contributors nationwide - to merchandise his assets throughout the district.
Further, the Crane camp put together a volunteer orgainzation that dug up Republican voters everywhere - even in the traditionally Democratic counties - and saw to it that they turned out to vote.
Crane's organizational advantage became obvious early Tuesday night as supporters gathered at the victory parties - Dan's at the Boat Club, Terry's in his ramshackle campaign headquarters above the five-and-dime in his hometown of Olney - and began to track the precincts' results.
"My God, would you look at Christian County!" shouted a happy George Windhorst, the commandant of Crane's volunteer network.
The Crane volunteers had worked so hard that even in Christian, the district's strongest Democratic bulwark, the Republican was running almost even.
Windhorst shouted again at 10:45 when Wabash County in the district's southern sector, which should have been strong Bruce country, gave the Republicans a 50-50 split. And the whole room was shouting for joy 20 minutes later when Crane took an early lead in Richland, Terry Bruce's home country.
At Bruce headquarters, Terry and his wife Charlotte were trying to ignore those results of focusing on returns from Vermillion Country, Dan Crane's home, where the Democrats had turned out a bigger vote than anyone expected.
Terry, who had spent election day in one last long trip around the district to win votes, was totally enervated. It was hard for him to concentrate on the returns, but as precinct after precinct came in the harsh truth started to penetrate. By 1 a.m., when the Bruces realized that the game was up, a kind of euphoria took over the room and Terry's concession speech to his staff was lighthearted and almost upbeat in tone.
It was far different, of course, from the sheer joy that swept Crane headquarters when the Associated Press called to say they considered Crane the winner. The rock band let forth a long drum roll and Dan was just starting to address the happy multitude when the telephone rang.
Dan's wife Judy could hold it no longer; she took off her glasses and let the happy tears flow. The new congressman, too, chocked back a sob as he accepted Bruce's brief acknowledgment of defeat.
The Republicans danced till 3 a.m., and almost every song was interrupted by another congratulating call.
From his new home in Boca Raton, Fla., Gene Stunkel, the fast-food proprietor who had spent $99,000 of his own money in a futile effort to beat Crane in the GOP primary here, place a call. From lawrenceville, at the southern end of the district, Roscoe Cunningham, the loquacious state legislator who also lost to Crane in the primary, offered his profuse congratulations.
All the well-wishers assured Crane it was a tremendous victory. But the new congressman, an introverted dentist who was pushed into the race by his family, was not so sure.
"You know, you may sometimes wonder by winning have you really won?" he said pensively.
"Because here again you're leaving things that may mean more to you. So bottom line, I'm not necessarily sure that I really won.
"Because selfishly, bottom line, I enjoy my life here in Danville more that I'll ever like Washington, D.C."