Lights, Camera...Fred!

An upset win upsets Vermont as a farmer steps out of retirement (and a movie) to run for the Senate

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Tuttle's greatest weapon is his smile, which breaks across his craggy face and spreads to the two small clouds of white hair that frame his balding head. He doesn't own a suit. He giggles. Any big plan would have to be written down rather than announced: his strong Yankee accent is thickened by the loss of teeth years ago in a bar fight. When he says his name, it sounds like "Furry Turtle."

Still, like a good pol, Tuttle knows the right thing to say. "I'd try to straighten out that sex scandal," he replies when asked what Senator Tuttle would do. But the lifelong Republican might have trouble in his caucus with ideas about retaining welfare and increasing the minimum wage. As for foreign affairs, he asks a reporter hopefully, "I don't know about foreign affairs. Do you?"

There are some who are bothered that what started out as a publicity stunt--Tuttle ran in part to promote the movie, which will air nationally on PBS next month--has subverted the electoral process. Some think Tuttle may eventually drop out. (Every time he says he'll stay in the race, Tuttle looks at O'Brien much as a child would at a stage mother). No one expects Tuttle to beat the popular Leahy, who is most worried about justifying his $500,000 war chest against Tuttle's pledge to spend just $251, one for each Vermont town. "I had expected an opponent with deep pockets," jokes Leahy, "not someone with holes in his pockets."

Tuttle is praying the pundits are right about Leahy. "He knows how many tits on a cow," he says approvingly one afternoon. Besides, Tuttle hates Washington, Dottie won't go, and it is nearly time for his nap. Asked whom he will vote for, Tuttle scratches his head and tugs on the suspenders of his overalls. "Probably myself, I think," he finally says. And the rest of Vermont? The answer is immediate: "Vote for Leahy."

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