One hard-line Carter supporter walked into the party taling victory, but it wasn't long before he looked at the numbers on the screen and groaned, "I just don't know what to say, But Uncle Walter can't be that wrong."

Some 600 invited guests crowded into CBS corporate headquarters here to watch the returns on guess-which-network; among 19 television sets in the suite of offices, all but two were tuned to Cronkite and the CBS News team.

FCC Chairman Charles E. Ferris, a Carter appointee, was on hand, as well as former chairman Richard E. Wiley, a Republican who asked incredulously, "What on earth happened to the [opinion] polls?"

"It looks like a Reagan rain," another guest noted.

There was the usual sports talk and long lines at the bar, and it might have been any other Washington cocktail party, except for the occasionaly glances toward the omnipresent TV screens. "Nice to see you someplace besides the tennis court," one chum greeted another.

The loudest cheer of the evening went up when Cronkite announced that George McGovern had lost. By the time Carter showed up on the screen to concede defeat, waiters had started picking up the empty glasses and used dishes."My God," sighed one woman in the rapidly thinning throng, "it's really over early."