Bartlett has nevertheless cultivated a deep sense of trust among voters in Western Maryland. Many reject the notion that he is not working hard for their vote.
"He's solid," said Mike Harshman, a 71-year-old Washington County resident. "The problem with putting someone else in there is that the person's going to be a rookie and he's going to get run over."
Even some of Bartlett's past critics warned not to count him out.
"When I threw my hat in the ring, I thought 'the guy's old and can't cut it,'" said state Del. Kathy Afzali, a Middletown Republican who challenged and lost to Bartlett in the primary.
"And boy, was I ever shocked when in came this 86-year-old man who was lucid, who was intelligent and who had a deep and compelling love of this nation," Afzali said. "I was shocked as could be when he put up the fight that he did."
Bartlett's campaign has shown growth in its fundraising operation. He managed to raise about $372,000 in the second quarter of this year — his best fundraising total ever — and many Republicans in Washington noted the candidate's tenacious effort at soliciting donors. But despite his best efforts, the figure was surpassed by Delaney, who raised $452,000 over the same period.
Meanwhile, third-party groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm of the House GOP, have not placed significant resources in the district. That is a sign that its leaders feel the money will be better spent elsewhere.
Delaney and Bartlett have agreed to five additional debates, including one that will be televised in Hagerstown on Wednesday.
Despite a recent line of attack that he is ultra-conservative, Bartlett is not among the most conservative members of the House. He has positioned himself as staunchly conservative on fiscal issues — he was among the last holdouts to support a deal to raise the debt ceiling last summer — but he has also broken with party orthodoxy on issues such as energy and the environment.
Delaney, 49, is making his first run for political office, though he has been a prolific fundraiser for national Democrats — including the Clintons. He has embraced the Democratic mantra of the need for a "balanced" approach to address the nation's fiscal crisis, which is code for a mix of spending cuts and taxes. Delaney has also adopted a more liberal stance on immigration, supporting a path to citizenship for those who have entered the country illegally.
The Democrat said he doesn't expect any changes in strategy in the final weeks of the campaign.
"Now, I've never done this before, so I can't speak with that much experience," he said, "but it's my sense that things are going well."
Family: Married, four daughters
Roscoe G. Bartlett
Family: Married, 10 children
To read more about candidates for Congress from Maryland, go to baltimoresun.com/electionguide2012