October 19, 1998 12:00 PM

Two years ago, Fred Tuttle was the unlikely star of the low-budget film Man with a Plan, which featured the retired Vermont dairy farmer as the bumpkin who beats the city slicker in a race for Congress. “I’ve spent my whole life in the barn,” says Tuttle in the movie. “Now I just want to spend a little time in the House!”

This year, Tuttle, 79, apparently deciding that life could do worse than imitate art, took on wealthy financier Jack McMullen for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. Though he spent only $200, compared with McMullen’s nearly $500,000, Tuttle comfortably won the Sept. 8 runoff by poking fun at the fact that McMullen had moved to Vermont from Massachusetts only a year ago. The farmer-politician flustered his opponent in one debate by asking him how many teats a cow has (four) and how to pronounce the name of the town of Calais (Caliss).

Tuttle realizes he has no chance of beating Sen. Patrick Leahy, a popular Democrat, in November. “They don’t want somebody like me down in Washington,” he says modestly. That’s just fine with his wife, Dottie, 69. “I was hoping,” she says, “this would have ended at the primary.”

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