HERE'S A fun little insight into Philly-style Election Day politics.

I'm in the backseat of a big gray Cadillac with a big Tom Knox sign on the trunk and Tom Knox himself seated beside me.

He's on the phone talking about the robbery that just took place at one of his campaign offices, where two guys wearing Knox T-shirts and toting a pistol grabbed $550 in cash, money he says was there for food, drink and "supplies."

Then he's on the phone advising another campaign aide who he says is about to drive around the city with $300,000 in cash for, you know, Election Day activities.

Knox advises the aide to "put most of the money in the trunk and cover it up and just put a little bit up front with you in case we get hit again."

How can you not love the politics of this city?

Now he's calling around trying to get Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson on the phone to dispatch some protection for his cash car.

Forget, I guess, the homicide spike and daily gun violence - for goodness sakes, save the money.

Johnson actually calls back and they have a conversation. But by the time I leave Knox an hour or so later deep in West Philly, it's unclear if a car or cop or both showed up.

"I don't have a clue," Knox press aide Susan Madrak said last night.

It should not, I suppose, be that surprising that a campaign built on money winds up talking about money.

At a mid-afternoon Jannie Blackwell event at 52nd and Lancaster, a TV news guy asks Knox on camera how much money he has on the street.

"I'm not going to tell you," says a smiling Knox. "My mother taught me it's not polite to talk about money."

Later in the day, as I leave him, I ask, too.

"It's well over seven figures," he says.

He adds, "I'm not so sure we spent it wisely, but we spent it."

I'm not so sure either. I mean about spending wisely.

I find it, for example, at least a little unwise to spend what is likely something north of $11 million of one's own money on a political campaign when one is a novice politician.

And, however well-intentioned, not exactly Mr. Electricity in a business that, unlike his other businesses, requires some measure of personal spark.

Need an example?

At a polling place in the Samuel Huey School, at 52nd and Pine near a go-go joint named Cousin Danny's Exotic Haven, Knox quietly strolls through a group of voters and campaign workers without making much of a ripple.

And the one person who seems enthused to meet Knox is wearing a plastic wrist bracelet that appears to be a patient ID. I'm just sayin.'

At another stop, a community center on Chestnut near 46th where there is no polling place, Knox, introduced by Blackwell, greets center workers and some children.

When I suggest this might not be the best use of his time on this day, he says, "I agree with you, but it's probably better than sitting in a hotel room."

I ask if he'd do anything differently. Maybe a family TV ad, he says, with wife Linda, children, the dog.

I ask if anything surprised him. Ed Rendell, he says, because "he didn't really pick anyone," though he did call Dwight Evans best-qualified and said nice things about Knox, too.

Was it worth it? Would he do it again?

"It's hard to figure that out," he says. "I think the answer is yes. It certainly took a year and a half of my life. But if I had to do it over, I'd do it."

Well, all it takes is money. Oh, wait, turns out that's not true. *

Send e-mail to baerj@phillynews.com.

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