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Dispatch from Washington

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WASHINGTON — Sometimes, a funny little thought crosses my mind: Why do Matt Doheny and Bill Owens want to serve in Congress?

Think about it. Imagine that every two years, you had to go before your boss, who would decide if you'd be rehired. There's about a fifty-fifty chance she says yes.

Your work environment, too, is pretty hostile partisan. Half of your so-called "coworkers" are actively trying to make sure you don't have a job when review time comes around. Harry Truman once said: If you want a friend in this town, get a dog.

You could do that, or you could work in the private sector, where you would make a lot more money and, perhaps best of all, you wouldn't have to deal with obnoxious reporters who want to take up your time and invade your personal life.

That's the choice Mr. Doheny, a Republican, and Mr. Owens, the Democratic incumbent, face.

Which would you pick? They chose to put everything they've got, including a lot of their money, into winning the Nov. 6 race.

For me, one visit to Washington and Capitol Hill this weekend helped explain why anyone would want to do this, and quickly erased my cynicism. It's not anything tangible that I can explain with great specificity. But walking around the Capitol, it's easy to understand why Mr. Doheny and Mr. Owens are hoping to serve the north country in Congress for two years.

There's a sense of power that you get from the Capitol and the buildings and the monuments, and a real aura of importance. The building itself, where the House and Senate convene, is much bigger than I imagined from photographs. It's also, I found out, actually on a hill. That explains that.

I'm blogging from a Starbucks on E Street, a few blocks from the Capitol. For a young political reporter, this moment is as special to me as a tour through the Smithsonian, a ride on Air Force One, and high-fiving Joe Biden, all rolled into one.

Most attractions were closed today, so I wasn't able to knock on any K Street doors or buttonhole anyone in the halls of Congress, but I know this trip will inform my reporting nonetheless.

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