But in a way, Graham has lost the round, because he had to spend money to make a commercial responding to an issue Hawkins raised in HER commercials.
The whole thing sort of reminds you of Coke vs. Pepsi, only with less substance.
Anyway, Graham would prefer not to talk about the pipeline, because it's Hawkins' issue. What he often does, in situations where he doesn't want to talk about what the press wants to talk about, is launch into lengthy anecdotes with powerful sedative properties. This time, up in his rental plane, he decides to talk about the manufacturing of phosphate, which has something to do with agriculture and which they apparently make bales of in the Bartow area. Graham knows all about how to make phosphate. The trick, he shouts to the Big Time reporters over the roar of the engines, is to get rid of the slime. The Big Time reporters try very hard to appear interested in slime disposal -- this man is, after all, a governor -- but it is clear they would prefer to read the instructions on their airsickness bags.
Finally I get a chance to ask Graham: "Will Faye Dunaway be having your baby?"
"I have too much respect for Miss Dunaway and what she stands for in America to answer that question, " he says. "If there's going to be any statement made, I think she should do it."
* * *
We land in Bartow, which apparently consists of a hangar. Inside the hangar is a smallish agricultural crowd, which Graham, using his oratorical skills, immediately whips into a stupor. He is not a gifted speaker. He is the kind of speaker who, if he were not the governor, people would shoot rubber bands at after a while. The high point of his Bartow speech comes when he holds up a can of Florida concentrated orange juice, which the crowd applauds, because frankly, and I am not trying to be cruel here, it exudes more charisma than the governor.
"Would you say, " I ask, "that spending a lot of time around cows as a child could make a person kind of dull?" Graham grew up on a dairy.
"It could have that potential, " he answers, "but on the other hand, some might say -- but I am too modest to personally say this -- that it brings out a quickness of wit, a sense of ironic humor, an ability to, with a -- not a destructive, but a positive uplifting way -- with words to bring humor into the world. That's what some people would say. I am too personally modest."
During the Bartow speech, I locate, just outside the hangar, an enormous insect of the type that you would never find in a state such as Ohio. I pick it up, using my notebook, which it spits brown glop on, to test a theory I have about Graham, which is that he will comment on anything. I show it to him, and ask: "Governor, would you comment on this insect?"
"This, " he says, picking his words very carefully, as he always does, "is an (here he says a name that sounds like "Execretius Bolemius, " which he is clearly making up). It is a Friend to Man. It is a member of the family of Almost-Flying Insects, and one of the many things that it does is that it titillates the toad."
He's very smart and he wants to be senator, and he'll do whatever it takes. He knows he can't get you with his voice or his looks. He has trimmed himself down, but his face still contains two-thirds of the known world supply of pudge. So he compensates. He meets you personally. Two or three times. If you're in the state more than 12 hours, he'll track you down. Shake your hand. Be Just Folks with you, cracker mouth talking, Harvard eyes watching. He'll write down your name in his little notebook. Send you a personal letter. Carry your luggage. Make you a sandwich. Take out your garbage. If you're a cattle rancher, he'll pet your heifers. If you're a humor writer, he'll give you funny quotes. Whatever it takes.