FRESNO — Like a patriarch going out into the land to visit his good works, Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston has spent the final days of his reelection campaign visiting, as an aide put it, "things he has created and people whose lives he has changed."
On Sunday, the good works included a paramedic station in Fresno--Cranston wrote the legislation that modernized emergency medical services programs around the country. And there was a stop at a day-care center in Sacramento--Cranston has made the expansion of child care for working parents a priority for some time.
"Day care is suddenly becoming a big issue, but Alan Cranston was working on it when no one was paying attention," said Patty Siegel, executive director California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
Getting such testimonials--and being able to back them up with lists of bills he has sponsored or supported--is one of the advantages of incumbency that Cranston is making the maximum use of in the campaign's closing days.
With its stress on accomplishments and on Cranston's powerful job as the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, this tactic is Cranston's foil to the "new face" appeal of his Republican opponent, Rep. Ed Zschau.
"My job was to figure out the one thing we could do to close the campaign that Zschau could not match," Cranston speech writer John Russonello said. "The answer was to put Alan on a bus and travel California to visit the things he has created and people whose lives he has changed."
In Oceanside, for example, the city's Republican mayor, Lawrence Bagley, welcomed Cranston to the beach that has been restored because of federal money Cranston secured.
"When I went to Sen. Cranston's office, he never asked my party affiliation," Bagley said. "He said, 'How much money do you need (to restore the beach) and when do you need it?' "
Bagley said he would not be swayed by President Reagan's appeal on behalf of Zschau:
"I respect and admire the President but I also respect Alan Cranston and I will vote my conscience."
In Los Angeles last Friday, Harley Frankel, the national overseer of the Head Start in the Nixon Administration, described how Cranston had saved the program in the early 1970s when the Head Start concept did not enjoy the bipartisan support it does today.
A Cranston parliamentary move also saved Head Start from losing its funding in 1981, Frankel said, when it was inadvertently left out of Reagan's restructuring of some federal agencies.
"On Capitol Hill you find out that Alan Cranston is not one vote, he's 20 votes. That's how much clout he has," said Frankel.
Assemblyman Jack O'Connell (D-Santa Barbara) described Cranston as a "national treasure" when he visited Ventura Friday to be praised for creating the Channel Islands National Park.
And today Cranston will visit the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area and Golden Gate National Park, both of which he helped create.
More than any other issue, the environment is a centerpiece of Cranston's quest for a fourth term.
He has hammered Zschau for opposing Proposition 65, the clean drinking water initiative, and for once voting against the federal Clean Water Act.
"We are convinced that the environmental issue will move the swing voters to us," said Russonello.
And in environment-conscious San Diego, a crucial battleground in the Cranston-Zschau race, Cranston picked up the endorsement Sunday night of Mayor Maureen O'Connor, a slow-growth advocate who had said during her mayoral campaign that she would not get involved in partisan politics.
Each of the events that Cranston has attended over the past few days--from San Diego to Sacramento--has been carefully advanced by his staff to bring out at least 100 eager Cranston fans, people who speak of him--as O'Connell did--as though he has transcended the role of senator.
"He is a wise and honest man, I wish he could serve California forever," said Carol MacManus, an expectant mother who showed up at the Oceanside event.
There has been none of the heckling that has marred some Zschau events. At Cranston's Fresno stop, in fact, Zschau's San Joaquin Valley consultant, John Hix, showed up just to get a look at the Cranston entourage, which includes several movie and TV stars.
Cranston clearly gets a boost from having the stars on his bus. They gather around him when he tells political war stories or discusses the latest polls. He treated them to dinner Saturday night.
The senator has become a folk hero to Robert Walden, who portrayed the reporter Joe Rossi on the "Lou Grant" TV show.
Walden is as blunt on the campaign trail as Rossi was in the newsroom.
"When I saw those pictures in the Sunday paper, I said, there is Ronald Reagan holding Ed Zschau's hand and Alan Cranston holding the hand of a constituent," Rossi said. "What a comment on these two candidates."
No Let Up
Some of Cranston's aides think it is time to get out of the way and let the voters decide.
But the senator won't let up. He rewrote his speech on the flight from Sacramento to Fresno Sunday. And tonight he will wind up his toughest Senate campaign ever in the northern California town of Chico. Why?
"Because we can get on TV there and reach a huge area," explained Cranston, a relentless campaigner who leaves nothing to chance.
The senator noted the other day that despite all the millions he has spent on TV ads, all the press conferences and speeches and get-out-the-vote work, he could not enter the final days of his campaign without his good-luck charm.
The charm's name is Lee Falk. Cranston's oldest and closest friend, Falk created the comic strip characters The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. He has been on the Cranston bus every time the senator won election.