Far away, in what folks here view as a political Disneyland on the Potomac where fantasy and reality peacefully coexist, Republican strategists delight at the makeup of Georgia's 4th Congressional District, a sprawl of white-collar Atlanta suburbs that have dispatched Rep. Elliott Levitas to Congress four times as a Democrat. On paper, it seems ripe for a GOP takeover.
Yet Levitas is favored to win his fifth term in Tuesday's election, which was delayed for his district and the adjacent 5th because a three-judge federal panel ruled last summer that the state legislature's redistricing plan was unfair to blacks in the two Atlanta districts.
This forced the legislature to redraw the districts' boundaries in special session last August.
Rep. Wyche Fowler (D) is expected to defeat two black challengers in the now 65 percent black 5th district, which was carved out with the help of some Republican legislators by state Sen. Julian Bond, who decided against running at the last minute.
The court ruling made Levitas' district even whiter and more Republican because it shifted some black voters from it into Fowler's district.
Levitas' district "is the type a Republican can win," says Lee Atwater, a White House political operative. "Demographically, it's the most Republican district in the South. All you have to do is look at voting patterns, history and the types of voters."
If it were up to the district's voters, Barry Goldwater now would be an ex-president and Georgia's first Republican governor would now be history. Sen. Mack Mattingly (R) owes his narrow upset of Herman Talmadge to Sun Belt migrants here who gave him 70 percent of their vote in 1980.
Reagan even beat President Carter here in his own backyard in this redrawn district.
Long before being Republican was cool in most of the South, the 4th district sent one, Ben Blackburn, to Congress. Levitas, 52, bumped him off four terms back.
Ticket splitting is common. Conservative is chic. Income tends toward upper brackets. Blacks make up only 13 percent of the district. Labor has little clout, their shock troops a mere 3,500 auto workers at a hard-hit General Motors plant in Doraville.
In fact, politicians who drawl or drive pickup trucks are frowned on. Neither Levitas nor his Republican opponent, Richard Winder, 49, an insurance executive and staunch Reagan disciple, do either.
So, why is Levitas favored over Winder, 49, who outspent Levitas by 2 to 1 in a $250,000 campaign and knocked on 60,000 doors to sell "America to Americans?" Why does Winder trail badly in one Democratic poll given credence by Republicans?
Levitas is one reason. He is a savvy conservative who could qualify as a "Boll Weevil" but eschews this and other labels and has a fine-tuned knowledge of his constituents. He sometimes votes with the president, sometimes with his party.
On the stump, he takes his cue from the midterm schism over Reaganomics. "We need to send them a message that Nov. 2 was no mistake," he says, railing at climbing deficits, advocating jobs programs as one route to recovery, decrying the plight of industry.
"I read where Reagan is going to put the mob out of business," he told a breafast meeting here. "That's good. Why should they be an exception?"
Levitas' reputation as a vigilante searching out Washington waste plays well back home.
Yet, environmentalists also tout him for taking on Interior Secretary James G. Watt, who has proposed carving up the pristine Chatahoochee National Recreation Area.
"The only chance we have is if there's a low voter turnout," says a distressed Republican Party official.
Winder's funds were poorly targeted, so he doesn't appear on TV. Levitas does. Other fumbles include volunteers who ripped down hundreds of campaign posters Nov. 3, the day after the national elections.