You have to remember the enormous odds they've overcome in the past, that every time the pundits have buried their candidate he has miraculously risen from the dead, and that every time they see him, George Bush is as he used to say "up for the '80s."
You have to remember that every campaign develops its own peculiar rhythm and logic, and their logic says that George Bush still can win. And you have to remember that politics can be fun, and presidential politics is the best game going.
So a small band of Bush organizers, advance men, bag carriers, drivers, schedulers, press aides and assorted political operatives keep moving from city to city, from state to state, hoping for the impossible, telling themselves it really can happen.
They are like the ragtag Confederate Army of 1865. Everyone tells them they are licked. And deep down they know it. But they keep fighting, because they believe in the cause.
"I'm not going to tell you it isn't a long shot," Bush workers invariably say. "But it is a possibility, if. . . ." If Ronald Reagan falls off a cliff. If George Bush wins all of the last string of big state primaries If . . . .
It is a gambler's logic, a logic of people who have little to lose. And Bush has adopted it, using the words from the Kenny Rogers song that one of his press aides has been playing at the back of the campaign bus for months.
"You have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run," Bush told a news conference last week.
The latest outpost is Michigan, another in a series of "must win" states for Bush. As in so many other places, the former ambassador and CIA director is the underdog in Tuesday's primary here, despite the fact that he is outspending GOP front-runner Ronald Reagan, 10 to 1.
"People think I'm crazy," Michael Cudahy, who has worked as a full-time unpaid Bush volunteer since last fall, said the other night. "I was just going to do this in Massachusetts. But every time I go home, I get bored and start thinking about the campaign. You try to stop, but you know your friends are still at it, so you come back and keep going.
"You would have had to chain me down to keep me from coming to Michigan."
Cudahay came to Michigan with Ron Kaufman, Bush's most respected field organizer. It is the fifth state they've worked together. John Casey, a young political operative they met in Pennsylvania, followed them. The three are Bush's outside political guns in the Detroit area. They are true believers.
"As hokey as it sounds, I think working for Bush is the best thing I can do for the country," says Kaufman.
"I believe in George Bush. He's the best qualified candidate the Republicans have put up for president in generations," says Casey. "He has such a broad-based background in business, government, foreign affairs. He didn't get his training in grade-B movies, like Reagan. He doesn't talk to farmers in Nebraska and tell them he doesn't know what parity is. He isn't giving people irresponsible answers."
The way Casey, Kaufman and Cudahay see it, Bush can still win the Republican nomination if he carries the last big-state primaries in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey and California. The problem is that people still don't know who George Bush is. "When they know him, they'll go for him," says Casey.
"I think people here want to vote for George Bush," says Kaufman. "We just have to give them a good reason."
It was 8 p.m. and the phone hadn't rung for 30 minutes in the Bush campaign headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak. Only one volunteer, a young housewife, had shown up for work, and she would make 30 phone calls to get 15 people to greet Bush at the airport the next day.
This is a new reality of the 1980 presidential season -- the ho-humming of politics -- and it is hitting the Bush campaign hard. The best indicator of this has been the vote totals. After attracting record numbers of voters in early primaries, the totals have dropped off dramatically in recent weeks. Last week in Maryland, only one registered voter in three bothered to go to the polls.
"I think the whole country is down. People have lost interest," says Kaufman. "It doesn't have anything to do with the candidate. People are just tired of the process."
The other reality is that much of the country has decided that Ronald Reagan is going to be the presidential candidate. But the Bush people keep going, even though most on salary have taken deep cuts in pay.
To understand why, you have to know that, unlike almost every 1980 campaign team, the Bush organization has remained largely intact through thick and thin. It has been an extremely well-managed effort that has been able to allocate its resources well enough to mount major advertising efforts in late primary states, where Reagan has had little money to spend because his campaign has spent near the federal limits.
The people Bush attracts to his campaign have always been its greatest strength. They have a battlefield camaraderie.
You also have to remember how precious the Bush victories have been. The one in Connecticut, after he was supposed to be politically dead. The one in Pennsylvania, when he was supposed to be dead. And he made a surprisingly strong finish in Texas.
But most of all, you have to remember the kind of people who go to work in political campaigns. They are young, ambitious, fascinated with the process. People with few enough attachments that they can afford to gamble. The Bush campaign was a big gamble for all of them from the beginning.
Kaufman, 34, decided he would go to work for a presidential campaign after attending the 1976 GOP national convention as a delegate. When he decided to go with Bush in late 1978, he recalls, "everyone thought I was nuts."
Ken Bastian, a former college basketball player whose chief job on the campaign trail is to record everything the candidate says, gave up a teaching job in Switzerland to take part in the campaign. Ann Owen a Duke University student, simply walked into Bush's office in Alexandria last January looking for something to do. She was put to work as an unpaid assistant in the press office.
At this point in the campaign, they -- like the candidate -- have little to lose.
Bush summed up their attitude last week in a news conference in Detroit.
"Look, I can add, too," he said. "It's hard to be behind. But I've been in here a long time, and I'm going to stay in this race. If I would have listened to people who wrote me off, I would have dropped out of this a long time ago."