John F. King, whose slash-and-burn style of politics carried him to the top of the Republican Party in West Virginia, decided to break into the big time in the nation's capital.

He ended up out on the street among muggers and thieves, sleeping at night in a shelter for the homeless.The 40-year-old former state Republican leader told The Washington Post he came to Washington in 1988. He started Palladin Consulting, a small operation that he made look big through post office boxes, fancy letterheads and "a little smoke and mirrors."

But King said his intense personality and undiplomatic style were bad for business. Early last year, it all but dried up and by August he was putting out resumes.

By October, his money had run out and he was evicted from his $725-a-month apartment.

He said he stood in the street in front of his apartment building realizing he couldn't go in and then walked to the nearby park.

"I was exhausted. So I just lay down and went to sleep," he said.

At the homeless shelter, they called him the professor because he came in wearing a three-piece suit. He stayed in a small, doorless cubicle with several other men, slept on an Army cot, ate when he was given food, woke up when he was told to.

Night after night, his companions talked about drugs, robberies and prison. One had been convicted of slitting a woman's throat.

Ashamed of failure, he stayed away from friends and relatives.

Finally, he became fed up with the shelters and turned to friends. He cleaned himself up, started seeing a therapist and now is looking for work.

"I wanted to be Henry Thoreau as a kid," he told the Post. "I ended up being George Patton with a little Marquis de Sade thrown in for character."