Forget the elephants, the body bags, the bow tie, and the mariachi band.
To truly appreciate the reality-TV campaign of Apprentice exile Raj Peter Bhakta, watch the five-minute video of the polo-shirted candidate chasing a half-naked man through the alleys of Brownsville, Texas.
That would be 1,900 miles from the congressional district he hopes to represent in Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
"There he is! Get him, get him!" Bhakta commands the cameraman as the sodden immigrant emerges from the U.S. side of the Rio Grande after a short swim from Mexico.
"Señor! Tu es un uhh... Entendes... ?" Bhakta calls out in gobbledygook Spanish, the camera bobbing in pursuit.
The man disappears down a side street, reappears moments later, and is captured by the Border Patrol. Bhakta, the border vigilante from Whitemarsh, takes credit for pointing him out."It's absurd," observed Bhakta, 30, of border security. "It's a joke. It's a complete joke."
To some, the very campaign of Bhakta - who was "fired" in Episode 9 of Donald Trump's Apprentice 2 reality show but impressed viewers with a cocky charm - is the absurdity.
That would include his opponent, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz.
"I think the way he's run this race and who he is is clear to the voters," said Schwartz, 58, of Rydal, considered a formidable politician and fund-raiser.
As a four-term state senator, Schwartz made her name spearheading Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program legislation, which now covers 150,000 children. She wants to expand that on the federal level. Her landslide congressional victory in 2004 set her up as a powerful force in a district that has historically been up for grabs.
But who is the man who campaigns simply as "Raj"?
Bhakta is the son of Indian and Irish immigrants who has made the elimination of Section 8 public housing and erection of a border fence his central tenets.
To Tom Ellis, the Republican chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, he's "a breath of fresh air," a young candidate with ideas and panache who is recognizable to Ellis' teenage daughters. Bhakta says he's a reformer - even President Bush is a target - for honest government and fiscal responsibility.
To Schwartz, Bhakta is novelty and political prankster whose sartorial statements - salmon sport coat, bow ties - mask a flimsy resume that includes two drunken-driving arrests.
His greatest novelty came down on the border.
About five miles outside Brownsville, on a private ranch, he rented three elephants and hired a mariachi band and paraded them along the banks of the Rio Grande.
He was outraged, just outraged, that the Border Patrol didn't come to investigate, even though Bhakta later conceded he didn't actually cross into Mexico - as he would claim on his homemade video.
Via that stunt, Bhakta You-Tubed his way onto The O'Reilly Factor to discuss border security, while Schwartz was emphasizing security for Philadelphia's ports, airport and public transit and calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step down.
Schwartz is considered such a prohibitive favorite - national Republicans regard the seat as "unwinnable," Ellis said - that her issues have been subsumed to the coverage of Bhakta's stunts.
Schwartz shrugs. "I'm running on my record," she said.
As of Oct. 18, Schwartz had raised more than $2.6 million, and had more than $500,000 to spend. Bhakta had raised $435,000 - largely on his own - and had less than $50,000 heading toward Election Day.
Bhakta should be getting a lot more money at this point "if people thought he had any chance," said Berwood Yost, director of the Floyd Institute's Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College.
Yost said Bhakta's DUI history - his most recent arrest was in 2004 - could also hamper his ability to offer himself as an alternative to a corrupt establishment.
"I can't cobble together anything that makes me think this race is competitive at all," Yost said.
Undaunted, Bhakta was in front of City Hall on Halloween, laying 331 body bags in Dilworth Plaza to call attention to Philadelphia's 2006 murder tally, taking shots at another target, Mayor John Street. The next day, he was berating Bush and the Republican Congress for an "obese, sclerotic, dirty and debt-ridden government."
While pundits might not expect a victory, Bhakta may have defeated his greatest opponent - obscurity.
"He knew that the chances were not terrific that he would pull this off," Ellis said. "But I think he'll be around for a long time."