Into the lobby of Terry Goddard's downtown campaign headquarters, someone has just lugged a canvas banner that is painted in new campaign colors. At the moment, Goddard is sequestered upstairs with television reporters and he cannot witness this event. His absence doesn't matter much, however, since he has become such a phenomenon by now that he doesn't need to actually be in a room for it to represent him. He is here at this moment, for instance, in the crowd of campaign volunteers who are well-groomed, well-educated, well-modulated women in low-heeled shoes, and who are either clustering around the banner or holding it up so that the other women can get a better look at it. He is here in the profuse way that they are exclaiming over the design. These professional-looking women are one sort of person who gravitates toward Goddard, and this is the kind of enthusiasm that he is capable of unleashing in them.
"Oh, I can't wait for Terry to see it," one of the women says, as a couple of the others tack the thing around the outside of the reception desk.
Eventually, he does see it. He lopes down the stairs wearing the same gray suit that he has been wearing out in public for years, or else one just like it. His pleasant, intelligent face wears its customary air of distraction, so at first he walks right past the banner.
"Did you see it?" the same woman asks him gaily, as he passes her.
"See what?" "The new sign. It's here." She points him back out into the lobby and he parks himself in front of the banner politely. His expression as he briefly scrutinizes it never changes.
"Oh," he says. He pauses. "I thought it was going to be different colors."
The woman has never stopped watching him as he is watching the banner. "But do you like it?" she wants to know.
"Yeah, it's fine," he says, in a voice that is very uninvolved, and then he strides out of the lobby.
"He likes it," the woman says to one of the other women. She says it with audible satisfaction, as though she has just received the thing she was looking for, even though Goddard gave her almost nothing.
A few days later, one of Goddard's campaign workers--someone who asks not to be identified--is ruminating on an aspect of the myth that surrounds Terry Goddard, an aspect that seems to shed some light on the banner incident. "Terry is somebody who personally you get very irritated with, because you know that he is capable of being a better person interpersonally than he is," the volunteer says. "But on the other hand, I find myself willing to do a million things for him. I think part of Terry's charisma is there is a sort of a sense of vision about him. But I also think that his supporters end up mirroring things we feel strongly about and attributing them to Terry."
It is as good an explanation as any for the sometimes fanatical appeal of this youngish, bookish man who has never been anything like fanatical. His fans pay gushing tribute to him, and his sizable cadre of political supporters work their butts off for him, and yet there never seem to flicker within him the kinds of passions and resolve that one usually associates with inspirational leaders. So perhaps it's true that, because his political theories are populist and his reactions to events are sometimes blank, the voters have been moved to partially invent him.
None of which is to say that he doesn't have strong feelings about being a politician. By all accounts, his devotion to public service is real and is, in fact, the very source of his personal identity. "He just doesn't know how to let go of his own perception of what he has to be--Terry Goddard the Mayor or Terry Goddard the Candidate or whatever. I have never seen him say, `We are not going to talk business tonight,'" says a City Hall insider.
He may also be possessed of what one of his political observers calls "principles in the corny sense," in that the Goddard mayoral administration was not scandalous. But even if it's true that he's a clean politician and a devoted one, many of those who've been associating with him for years still aren't sure what else he is, perhaps because he maintains an emotional distance from people and issues.
"What does he believe in?" asks a woman who has known him for a decade, echoing the question that has just been posed to her. "Who knows?"
"What does it take to know Terry well?" muses attorney Chuck Case, a friend since college who is also pointed out by others as one of Goddard's closest political advisers. "Oh, I am not sure I know Terry well."