You would have thought it was election night 1980 at the Century Plaza Hotel in downtown Los Angeles where the Reagan troops triumphed. Not the Watergate 48 hours after the GOP made a mediocre showing in the off-year elections.
Everyone seemed awfully happy.
Even Victory, the Republican Robot who stole the spotlight from CIA director William Casey, the guest of honor.
Last night Robert Keith Gray -- the relentless publicist -- hosted a formal dinner for Casey, campaign director for the presidential election. It was the second anniversary of the Nov. 4 Reagan victory. The 100 invited Republican heavies were still patting each other on the back.
Just when all political PR gimmicks seem to be exhausted in this town, leave it to Gray to come up with one more. Last year, he tried to give Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) a live elephant. Last night, he rolled out Victory, the tall, champagne-colored waddling robot.
"I'm the spirit of campaign '80," crackled Victory, as he ambled before the properly astonished guests. "I am the first 100 percent team-playing supply-siding Ronald Reagan-rooting Republican robot . . . and that means I have been paid for entirely by private contributions. I am very cold and mechanical."
And there was more.
"I am often mistaken for David Stockman," announced Victory. (The OMB director was not present.) "I absorb facts and spit them back. As they say in the robot business, garbage in, garbage out."
And what good is a Republican robot who can't take a few healthy slams at the opposition?
Gray: What chance do you think Teddy Kennedy has of becoming president?
Victory: About as much chance as Queen Elizabeth has of going to a slumber party at Koo Stark's house.
Gray: What do you think is the first thing we have to do to defeat Ted Kennedy?
Victory: Arrange an interview with Roger Mudd.
Gray: Do we have anything to fear from John Glenn?
Victory: Only that he will take us captive and make us listen to his speeches.
Gray: What was your biggest contribution to the president's 1980 campaign?
Victory: Simple. I am the one who told Amy Carter about nuclear proliferation.
Gray: How do we handle Gary Hart?
Victory: Simple. Just break his mirror.
Next to Victory, the sweatheart of the evening was White House press secretary James Brady -- thin, happy and chatty. Brady is expected to return to work at the White House today, after spending the past year and a half recovering from being shot during the attempted assassination of Reagan. He was in fine form.
"I'm going to kick a -- and take names," quipped Brady. "Those reporters haven't had any leadership in a while . . . I'm going to restart their engines."
The most interesting guest of the evening was Max Hugel, former chief of CIA covert operations, who resigned last year following disclosure of alleged financial improprieties by Hugel. Hugel's resignation triggered an intense Senate investigation of Casey's business activities.
Others among the throng: Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis and wife Marilyn; Labor Secretary Ray Donovan, and wife Catherine; Presidential counselor Edwin Meese and wife Ursula; special assistant to president Rich Williamson; Nancy Dickerson; presidential personnel director Helene von Damm and White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes.
Past, recent and future election talk prevailed.
"I think we more than held our own," said political consultant Roger Stone, Reagan's northeast coordinator. "We won governor of California and we came awfully close in New York, when we should have gotten skunked."
"I would have liked to see more seats in the House," said Donovan. "I read it favorably for the president's programs. There's a lot of support out there."
Earlier in the evening, most of the same crowd stopped by a rousing anniversary celebration at the Mayflower Hotel for former campaign workers. About 2,000 supporters crammed into the ballroom in a scene reminiscent of the GOP convention. The band played, the crowds cheered, the stars waved.
"There's nothing more fun than political campaigns," said Casey later. "It sure beats governing."