"You will know where I stand. I'm not going to do a ballet dance. Tin not going to tiptoe through...."
"I want to put my life where my mouth has been all these years. That's why I'm...."
On and on. But is anybody listening?
The candidate is walking down the midway at the Erie County Fair with his wife, Joanne, and three children when a woman stops him and asks, "Say, didn't you used to be Jack Kemp?" Kemp shows not a flicker of introspection at the paralyzing question. The transformation from athlete to politician is progressing. At the fair the blue ribbon for artwork goes to a lady who has done Kemp's portrait in wool. He is dressed in his familiar No. 15 jersey; in one hand is a football, in the other the Capitol.
Kemp's official farewell to sport was a $25-a-plate Jack Kemp Appreciation Dinner in June. A few sports figures had to be paid to show up, but most came at their own expense and were warmly laudatory of Kemp, the quarterback. Pete Rozelle, O. J. Simpson, Lou Saban, Frank Leahy and Cookie Gilchrist were among the speakers. The warmest tribute of the night was Frank Leahy's. The old Notre Dame coach said, "Men of Jack Kemp's stature represent the last bastion of strength in our great nation."
Following the dinner, Kemp broke cleanly with his past. Too many celebrities—Sam Huff, Tex Ritter, John Glenn, Shirley Temple, Bud Wilkinson—had failed to establish political credentials and had lost elections. "Why, Kemp's got nothing but a name," a girl at the airport Hertz counter had said. "He's just an overgrown monkey." Kemp is hardly gargantuan, only 6 feet tall and no brawnier than the corner druggist. The intricacies of pro football demand intelligence and Kemp is bright and polished. In his campaign he projected an informed and well-spoken image. But his reputation still wore shoulder pads.
Emotions of voters are finely calibrated by the ad agencies that package political candidates. Kemp's campaign was no exception. The immediate concern of the Rich Advertising Company of Buffalo was Kemp's high-and-mighty quality. "We had to loosen him up," said Rich's Al Schutte. "Get him to acknowledge people, smile at everybody, stop walking away from crowds. We designed his campaign billboards in a way that makes him seem involved with people. We took him out on Main Street, made him take off his coat and loosen his tie. I mussed up his hair. Jack didn't like that. 'I am what I am,' he said, but I told him, 'Look, you've got to win the election and after that you can be what you are.' "
Schutte's other aim was to present Kemp as older looking than his 35 years and more statesmanlike. Kemp was aged by a graphic technique. The gray tones were removed from a close-up photograph that showed just his face and head. This accented the very slight wrinkle lines around his eyes. Suddenly Kemp was aging—and concerned. "I suppose Jack wouldn't like me to describe the effect this way, but it looks Kennedyish," Schutte said, "and that's a good image for a politician to have."
Although one of the lecturers at the Republican Candidates' School had suggested riding about the district with jacket off and shirtsleeves rolled up—"Do everything physically to express the ethic of hard work," was the advice—a rough-and-tumble approach is not Kemp's style. He is always meticulously turned out, so much so that his ad agency had to airbrush in a few errant hairs on his campaign poster. Kemp's red-brown razor cut is sprayed with Consort and stays immaculately in place. Through the campaign he wore the same discreet navy polka-dot tie and always a white shirt.
Kemp centered much of his effort on Amherst, a white-collar area with a preponderance of Republicans. If he could take the town with 64% of the vote, he could more than offset an expected Democratic plurality in the blue-collar area of Cheektowaga. Amherst's Main Street is a concrete slash of consuming America, hamburger and pizza stands cheek by jowl, beauty salons, motels, supermarkets, gas stations. Yet only yards from the churn of traffic are quiet maple-lined streets, and in these comfortable homes Kemp made his pitch. By Election Day he had spoken at 92 neighborhood coffee hours. Usually they were all-women affairs, but Joanne Kemp considered them well worth her husband's time. "Women like to talk," she explained. "I think, on the average, every lady at a coffee tells at least five people about meeting Jack."