Vice President Mondale has campaigned across the country since Labor Day trying to rally the Democratic Party around its unpopular president and looking for signs of a momentum that would bring a Democratic victory.
Asked how successful he has been, Mondale joked: "You test my humility."
But in the last days of an uneasy campaign tour that spots an encouraging sign one minute only to encounter a downer the next, Mondale's message is getting simpler and simpler. It boils down to one word:
"We will win if the citizens vote. We will lose if they don't," he said in Allentown, Pa.
Of the campiagn stops in his final week, six are in Pennsylvania, five in Wisconsin, four in Illinois, four in Ohio and three in Michigan. The election is extremely close in all these states.
"If the farmers, workers, women, students and minorities are energized, then I've done well," Mondale said on his campaign plane. He calls the election "tight as a tick" and, although at campaign rallies he expresses the required confidence that the Democrats are gaining, he sometimes admits bafflement.
Mondale's self-deprecating humor enhances his appearances and makes the tone of his campaign a striking contrast to President Carter's.
Asked to describe his campaign strategy, he replied: "There's a lot less system to what I'm doing than meets the eye."
"It's neither ordered nor efficient," added the candidate who once dropped out of presidential contention because he didn't want to spend his life in Holiday Inns.
Mondale knows most of the nation's Holiday Inns pretty well by now, and once in a while the campaign fatigue shows -- as when he said "Hollywood" when he meant "Halloween" Friday night.
The exhausting cross-country travel is aimed at the best of midwestern and eastern states where Mondale is more popular than Carter.
At an enthusiastic United Auto Workers rally in Kenosha, Wis., there was only one placard bearing Carter's name while dozens hailed Mondale.
The one question Mondale seems almost hostile in answering is why Ronald Reagan is popular in some areas that might be expected to be safely on the Democratic side.
Mondale won't discuss that. Loyalty is not one of his short suits.
The unpopularity of the president is evident at campaign stops, however. Mondale attempts to deflect it by saying "we're not here arguing perfection" and by firing criticisms at Republican Ronald Reagan.
Another question Mondale doesn't answer -- although he isn't hostile to it -- concerns his own presidential ambitions for 1984.
Of all his campaign travel, Mondale said, "I think what I've done has given me a view of this country that's very rare. How many people have done what I've done?"
To continue flying on Air Force Two for the next four years, however, he needs the gift of a victory Tuesday.
If he is forced into political exile the gifts he will take with him are of considerably less value. In addition to the T-shirts and hats a candidate is showered with along the campaign trail, Mondale's collection would include one gift that might appear of ambiguous import in the light of a Tuesday defeat.
In Green Bay he was presented with a 10 1/2-pound dead trout wrapped in a poster proclaiming "This Is Carter-Mondale Country."