Dennis Callahan had his subject, Democratic County Executive Candidate Ted Sophocleus, where he wanted him, dead to rights in front of thousands of Annapolis-area cable television viewers.
So in the spirit of Dan Rather, Callahan asked the candidate about his role in the biggest controversy of his campaign -- Cakegate.
"It seems silly to me, I have to confess," Callahan said. "But I have to hear it from the horse's mouth."
"It seems silly to me, too," said Sophocleus, who then explained away the controversy that resulted in his campaign treasurer being charged with a misdemeanor for improperly reporting baked goods as cash contributions.
"I have to say it backfired," Callahan agreed. "Cakegate will go down in infamy. It was a horrendous miscalculation on your opponent's part."
The show, "Maryland on the Half Shell," was Callahan's first on United Cable-Channel 15 in Annapolis, and it showcased the kinder, gentler Callahan who finished second in September's Democratic primary for county executive.
There were, however, a few subtle shades of the old, brash Callahan, the former Annapolis mayor who narrowly lost to Alfred A. Hopkins in last year's Democratic primary, then threatened to run a write-in campaign against Hopkins in the general election.
Callahan failed to mention during the 30-minute show that he was working on Sophocleus' campaign, normally considered a conflict of interest for an interviewer. And he scheduled no time for Sophocleus' opponent, Republican Robert R. Neall, but suggested that any questions he might ask Neall would not be so kind.
Although Callahan will appear weekly on cable, his venture into television is not expected to be permanent. Nor is it enough to pay the bills, although he won't say what he gets paid for the weekly show. He has money coming in from two successful businesses he sold, but says it isn't enough to retire on. He is a politician looking for work.
A Texas anti-drug group, Texans' War on Drugs, will be looking for a new executive director in January. The group has been interested in Callahan for more than a year. Lately, however, Callahan's work for Sophocleus has raised speculation that he might be looking for work in a Sophocleus county administration. Callahan says he wants to stay in Annapolis.
"If Ted should win, I think it would be very interesting to be a part of his administration," Callahan said.
Asked about Callahan on Friday, Sophocleus praised Callahan's work on his campaign, but did not say whether there would be a job for him in a Sophocleus administration.
Of course, Callahan has never been one to take a back seat to anyone. He said whatever job he takes will have to come with a long leash. "I've been self-employed much of my life," he said. "Whatever I do in the future would have to be a decision-making position or a position of authority."
Former Annapolis Mayor Roger "Pip" Moyer, who came in second of eight Democratic candidates for Congress in 1972, knows what Callahan is going through.
"I know what a political defeat is like and how it hurts," Moyer said.
"But you can always come back, in an elected or appointed position. Dennis is a young man with a lot of talent and a lot of ability."
Moyer began his own comeback by playing a key role in Callahan's 1985 mayoral campaign, and is now deputy director of the Annapolis Housing Authority.
For a politician who's lost two races in the last year, Callahan is remarkably upbeat. He was at a low after his loss to Hopkins last year, but said his showing in the Democratic county executive primary lifted his spirits. He came in second, with 10,000 votes to Sophocleus' 18,000, despite being heavily outspent by Sophocleus and Glen Burnie Councilman Michael F. Gilligan, who finished third.
His wife, Brenda, who got a job as manager of the Jenny Craig weight loss clinic in Annapolis so Callahan could campaign full time, attributes his upbeat mood to the time on his hands.
"He's just real relaxed," Brenda said. "All he does is play racquetball.
He's not working. His wife is working."
Indeed, his racquetball game has flourished since the Sept. 11 primary.
He's 5-0 in the A League at the Merritt Athletic Club in Annapolis. And he said he's enjoyed spending more time with his family.
But Callahan, 49, who never tasted politics until five years ago, is anxious to get back, be it by appointment or election.
"Everyone has their addictions in life, and mine just may be politics," he said. "I don't think they've seen the last of me, whether they want to or not."