hee-haw hell is going on down in that state of mine?”
Porter lifted a thick white binder off his lap and turned the pages in chunks until he arrived at the section he needed. “These are your numbers among nondenominational Christians. You’re green. He’s red.”
Porter held up a page in which the red bar stretched conspicuously farther than the green bar.
“Holy Mother of God,” Whitmer said.
“Here are the Baptists,” Porter said, turning one sheet over to reveal a page that looked identical to the last.
“Oh, sweet Jesus.”
“The Methodists look like this,” Porter said. The bars were slightly closer in length, but red still easily outdistanced green.
“And here are the Episcopalians,” Porter finished, holding up another page that was nothing but bad news for the senator.
“Since when the hell do Episcopalians give a crap about religion?” Whitmer demanded. “Oh, Jesus Christ, what about the atheists?”
“Ah… they’re all Demo crats, sir.”
“Okay, okay, I’m sick of talking about the damn Jesus freaks,” Whitmer said. “They’re going with that Tea Party sumbitch. I get it. Let’s talk geography. There’s got to be somewhere in the state I’m doing well. Maybe we can build on that.”
Porter nodded, turning chunks of pages in his binder until he reached the right place.
“Okay, we’ve done some county-level work. If you want us to go finer than that, we can, but that’s going to add to that estimate I gave you,” Porter said.
“County is fine,” Whitmer said.
“Okay. You’re doing better in the southern part of the state. Mobile and Baldwin Counties still remember all you did after the BP spill.”
“Damn right,” Whitmer boomed. “And well they should. There’s two hundred thousand people in Mobile. Maybe we just got to make sure they get out and vote.”
“Well, I said you were doing better there. I didn’t say you were winning it. It’s pretty much a dead heat.”
“Oh,” Whitmer said.
“I’d still recommend a strong get-out-the-vote effort there,” Porter said.
“Now, those are areas of relative strength. Areas of weakness are, well, here. You can see for yourself. Again, you’re the green shades. He’s the red shades. Statistical ties are gray.”
Porter held up a page with a map of Alabama. There was a green patch in Marengo, the senator’s home county. There was some gray along the southern coast. Otherwise, the whole map was awash in varying shades of red. The more rural, the more red. Some areas were practically magenta.
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Whitmer said again. He reached in his drawer and pulled out a flask of vodka. He had a luncheon to attend and didn’t want to smell like bourbon.
“Well, it’s interesting you should put it that way, because I have to tell you, some of those Christian voters we polled mentioned your tendency toward blaspheming. You might want to curtail…”
“Goddamnit, don’t tell me how to talk, boy,” Whitmer said. “Just tell me what to do about those thirteen goddamned points.”
“A scandal would do nicely, sir,” Porter said, evenly. “Set him up with a whore, leak pictures to the press.”
Whitmer was already shaking his head. “We tried that before we even knew he was this big a threat. Didn’t work. The sumbitch has too much Jesus in him. He chastised the woman for trying to seduce a married man, lectured her about the sanctity of marriage, then actually got her to pray with him. Last I heard, she was volunteering in his campaign office and going to his damn church.”
Porter absorbed this for a moment. “Well, then there’s only one thing that’s going to do the trick: money. It’s getting late inthe game, but it’s not too late. If you were to launch a major advertising blitz—from Huntsville to Birmingham to Mobile to every small town in between—you’ll be able to take the guy’s legs out from under him. But you’ll have to go negative, real hard and
Robert Asprin, Esther Friesner