"Hey, nobody's gonna get funky with the president," jived the deejay as the floor throbbed with disco, and beer, cold and sweet, flowed rapidly down hundreds of Carter-Mondale throats. It was the closing of primary season last night, and this party was serious.
"You don't know me, but I'm in love with you," one woman said to Hamilton Jordan. "I've always been."
"Don't leave," said Jordan. But she did, and there he was, left with his beer.
"There she is, over there, the blonde," said a 1976 campaign vet to another. The blonde was dancing with great meaning on the parquet floor. "I think she used to be a model," offered vet No. 2.
The candidate was the one who actually got the party started by arriving about 9 p.m. at Library Plaza, an outdoor terrace across from the Executive Office Building and above the bar, The Buck Stops Here. Jimmy Carter walked across 17th Street in the swampy heat with aides and his wife, Rosalynn, telling the 500-plus mob: "I have a deep feeling in my heart, and that is thanksgiving to all of you who eight months ago turned what was a disastrous prediction of defeat into a wondrous victor tonight."
Nobody seemed especially concerned that the California polls hadn't closed or that early returns there showed the president in a close race with Ted Kennedy; by the Carter campaign's count, he had enough delegates regardless of California, Ohio and the other six states. The Associated Press and CBS saw it differently, but again, this wasn't particularly interesting.
Carter spoke only briefly, telling reporters he had "not yet" talked with Kennedy and, at that point last evening, didn't know if he would. Press secretary Jody Powell, who surfaced later in great spirits at The Bucks Stops Here disco/victory party, said only that he hoped for a reconciliation between Kennedy and Carter, "the sooner the better."
And then, after Carter told the crowd (lots of healthy faces, sun dresses, green and white balloons, gin and tonics, lusty cheers) that he intends to be "very active as a campaigner in the fall" and also looks forward to "meeting the Republican nominee -- I assume it will be Ronald Reagan -- both on the campaign trail and in intense, head-on-head debate," he shook hands candidate-style with the campaigners, some of whom stood in big pots that held the trees.
Then he walked home. Everybody else went downstairs to The Buck Stops Here, where things began in earnest.
A crush at the bar. Flashing lights. A revolving ball like they have at ice-skating rinks when the lights get low.And a young lady who discoed with three Carter-Mondale buttons pinned prominently to her tank-top.
"At least at Carter-Mondale parties," said one campaigner, "people know how to dance."
Except, maybe, for Jordan. He stood quietly with his back against the wall. The young woman who had professed her love had moved on.
"I am not going to dance," he said. "That would cost the general election." So he stood there, accepting congratulations and an inquiry from somebody who wanted to know what happened to that picture of him and the president at that Polish-American dinner in Chicago. He'd sent it to the White House to be autographed, and that was 1976, and so-where was it? t"I'll do what I can," said Jordan as he reached for another beer.
As this was occuring, boom, thump, squeal, thump, thump went the music. It was hard to hear anybody, although somehow a young man named Lou Regenstein managed to get a few audible words in. He's executive vice president of the Fund for Animals and an energetic Carter backer.
"Reagan, you know, came out against the dolphins yesterday," he said. "Lost a few million votes. Americans love dolphins. I mean, you come out against Flipper . . ."