Marl, West Germany — 6:15 a.m.: Member of Parliament Ulrich Steger's 16-hour day begins with a visit to the CWH Chemical Works. He doesn't gladhand the workers coming on shift American-style, but he is present with the local union leaders while young union members hand out campaign flyers.
This lets the arriving workers see the close union-Social Democratic Party (SPD) relations. It's a "transfer of trust," in the German phrase, that Steger will benefit from in the bundestag (parliament) election Oct. 5.
Dr. Steger, as he is always introduced -- Dr. is still a title that earns almost universal respect in Germany -- hardly has to worry. He got a comfortable 54.3 percent of the vote in his maiden campaign four years ago. He has kept in the public eye since then with a local office, constant visits to major district companies and mines, 110 local press releases a year, and active involvement in such issues as getting a new road for the Marl slag dump trucks.
The chemical workers and coal miners of his constituency are sure to return him to the Bundestag. Steger wants to get re-elected with as high a majority as possible, however, to help SPD candidates who are not as secure as he is. Half of the MPs are elected directly (like Steger) from constituencies; half are elected on a nationwide list from the "second" (party preference) vote. The higher the turnout Steger attracts -- "get out and vote" in his major campaign message -- the more "second votes" his party will get for its proportionally elected candidates.
10:30 a.m.: Steger and his entourage arrive at the Franz Musberg pub in Marl, in the building that also houses the homing pigeon club that Steger visits every year in order to award the prizes for this favorite Ruhr workers' sport. The outside pub doors are locked, and the waitresss and the morning manager knows nothing about the scheduled meeting with local pensioners. Neither do many of the pensioners; only a handful turn up who saw the notice in the town paper.
1 p.m.: For various reasons, none of the local journalists make it to the scheduled lunch with Steger and the foreign correspondents who are trailing him. The correspondents quiz Steger about national politics instead.
After lunch Steger exchanges some repartee with women running a refreshment and brochures table for his Conservative rival in the walking plaza. They present him with a plastic bag of Conservative campaign literature, which he accepts.
3 p.m.: Steger walks through a residential area behind a sound van, handing out SPD pinwheels, sunshades, and paper flags to the children who flock around. He declines to hand out SPD lollipops personally, since he tells his own children not to eat them. But some of his campaign staff do distribute the candies as they stuff flyers in mailboxes. "Ladies and gentleman," blares the truck loudspeaker, "your MP Dr. Ulrich Steger is here to answer any questions or troubles you may have. He has already made a name for himself in the Bundestag."
5 p.m.: At the central plaza in Dorster -- a city of 70,000 that gave the SPD only 35 percent of its votes in 1969 but came within 180 ballots of favoring the SPD in the state election last spring -- Steger opens a "log cutting festival." It's a pun in German. "Cutting" is also slang for calling opponents names in a campaign; and the sound bus emcee announces that while the Conservatives are "cutting" their rivals, the SPD candidates "cut" only wood. The 200-odd shoppers, bicycle riders, and roller skaters smile at the jibe, consume their sausages "at socialist prices," and join in the competition.
Steger doffs his jacket, rolls up the sleeves of his salmon colored shirt, and saws through his log in two minutes, six seconds. Everyone who accepts the challenge beats him -- even a grandmother of pension age.
8 p.m.: Steger meets his environmentalist and communist rivals for a debate at the Insel Adult Evening School.
After midnight: Steger returns home for a few hours' sleep before the next campaign day beings.