It was evening on the patio of a home overlooking the shadowed greens of the Riviera Country Club, and Rob Scribner, functioning on only four hours' sleep, was showing the strain of his second run for Congress.
His voice cracked during a brief talk to supporters who had paid $100 a ticket to attend the Santa Monica cocktail party featuring half a dozen former professional athletes.
"I'm feeling it," the Republican candidate said of the rigors of the campaign. "But the polls look good."
Buoyed by that thought, Scribner, a pension planner, called on those attending the party to offer their "lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor" in the struggle to displace two-term Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica).
"I'm not asking a lot," he added, winning a laugh. Turning serious, Scribner said he has been scoring points with voters in the South Bay by criticizing Levine for his support of California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, and for what Scribner sees as Levine's indifference to pollution in Santa Monica Bay.
The race for the 27th District, a rematch of the 1984 campaign, offers one of the clearest choices of any congressional election in Southern California this year.
The candidates have a few things in common--both are joggers, both family men--but their differences begin with Scribner's devotion to football and Levine's to baseball, and go on to include virtually every political issue.
"What the people believe, it's just not what (Levine) believes," Scribner said.
But Levine does not see it that way.
"I do reflect the views of the district," Levine said. The district is predominantly Democratic in registration.
"I've worked with key constituent groups and I represent them in a variety of ways," Levine said.
He said his efforts to keep oil drilling out of Santa Monica Bay have been effective despite opposition from the Reagan Administration.
"This Administration on this issue has been nothing more than the handmaiden of the oil industry," Levine told a political meeting last weekend.
The Sunday morning brunch was sponsored by state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles), who is also running for reelection. Levine made the speech during a brief visit after Congress adjourned last Sunday.
Although he was in town for less than 48 hours, Levine managed to fit in half an hour of batting practice against an 80-m.p.h. mechanical pitcher at a miniature golf course before returning to Washington for a week of appointments and a trip to Wednesday's World Series game in Boston.
In his speech, Levine also cited his attempt to have Santa Monica Bay declared a site for cleanup by federal Superfund money, a request that was turned down by the Environmental Protection Agency on the ground that the bay is too large.
Despite that, he said, he has introduced legislation that may force the agency to reconsider.
Levine also took credit for House legislation banning interstate sale of drug paraphernalia and calling on the Administration to cut off foreign aid to countries that do not cooperate in fighting the narcotics trade.
His position as a subcommittee chairman on the Foreign Affairs Committee allowed him to play a key role in blocking the sale of sophisticated weapons to Jordan and Saudi Arabia and opposing U.S. aid for the contra s fighting Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government, Levine said. The contra aid bill ultimately passed.
He also said that as co-chairman of the military reform caucus, he introduced items in legislation for the Defense Department budget calling for increased competition for military contracts and more meaningful testing of new weapons systems, issues of importance to defense workers living in the South Bay. While he gave Scribner credit for "his hard work . . . very persistent and focused," Levine said the challenger is "very fanatical and very zealous. He happens to represent an extremist point of view."
"I'm a conservative," Scribner told his supporters at the Tuesday evening cocktail party.
"I want to conserve your money. I want to conserve your bay. I want to give your money back to you, because you can spend it better than the government can."
He came within sight of the incumbent in 1984 but lost by a decisive margin, picking up 88,896 votes to 116,933 for Levine.
Hoping to reverse his field and win this time, Scribner, a former running back at UCLA and a special teams player for the Los Angeles Rams, used the language of football in a recent mailing.
"Fourth quarter, fourth down, a yard to go with seconds on the clock. . . . Rob needs your push for the touchdown . . . in a final run that will carry Rob Scribner to victory!"
Scribner, a frequent surfer, has been concentrating his efforts on the South Bay, hoping that disaffected Democrats there will cross party lines in numbers great enough to offset liberal Republicans elsewhere who are expected to vote for Levine.