Carter campaign chairman Bob Strauss gave the pep talk, but from the sound of things, nobody much needed it. That's because those black campaign workers who listened or drank cocktails afterward were hard-line supporters, Jimmy Carter appointees, or both.

An impartial group it was not. Presidential adulation wafted between the scotch glasses, over the moist fruit platters, even down the stairways.

"I think the whole system is going to be surprised at how well Carter is going to do," said Idaree Westbrook, a San Francisco black leader. "Once Ted Kennedy opened his mouth and blacks realized he wasn't saying anything, Jimmy Carter began to look even better."

"Black folk aren't caught up in the Kennedy mystique of 10 to 20 years ago," said Ben Brown, the Georgia state politician who joined the bandwagon long before it left Plains and is now one of Carter's campaign deputies. "Now you're talking about a more sophisticated black community."

Yesterday afternoon, Strauss issued the private rallying cry and held a strategy session with some 20 mid-level black leaders from across the country. The thrust was how to tap the black vote, a vote considered by some politicians -- at least before Iran strengthened Carter's support -- to be in danger.

Afterward was the cocktail party, where everybody announced the black vote was most definitely not in danger. Healthly as ever, they decreed.

This all occurred in a New Hampshire Avenue law office that was once a townhouse, a floor plan that allowed guests some triple-level mingling opportunities.

The offices belonged to Bill Borders, president-elect of the National Bar Association. He was there, as were Army Secretary Clifford Alexander, Assistant Labor Secretary Ernest Green, Chip Carter, and 75 others. Strauss didn't make it.

While some guests speculated on measures President Carter might announce in his speech on Afghanistan later in the evening, most of the cocktail party talk centered on gossip and shop talk. In this case, the shop talk was making contacts, deals and arrangements for the campaign.

As Brown put it: "This group has an investment in the president."