Maybe it just doesn't mean that much anymore to some people.

Maybe the State of the Union just isn't something you're supposed to cancel all previous engagements for.

Or maybe it was just that last night a bunch of Democrats felt that Vera Murray was more important that Ronald Reagan.

As the country watched the president of the United States take the podium in the Capitol to praise and prioritize, Vera Murray took a seat at the Madison Hotel party to be toasted and touted.

She was called nothing less than the "brains" and the "real power" behind Bob Strauss, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, who threw the bash to celebrate Murray's 15th anniversary as his executive assistant.

The 300 or so dressed-up Democrats, mostly higher-ups from the last two decades of Democratic National Committee leadership, ate their pasta and veal and didn't think twice about the fact that they were missing even the television coverage of the speech. The party was planned long before the State of the Union was moved to last night from its original schedule of a week ago.

"We have never let what the Republicans do interfere with anything we have done," Murray said, adding, "I think most people here figure they'll read it in the paper tomorrow."

And so except for a crack by DNC Chairman Paul Kirk to the effect that "it's Vera Murray, the spinach-stuffed tomatoes won out over the speech, at least until former governor Chuck Robb and Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) showed up after participating in the Democratic response to Reagan's address.

Robb was met with cheers, as if he were just back from fighting a triumphant battle.

"I do apologize for being a little late," he said before offering his praises to Murray and adding, "Thank you, Vera, for making Bob Strauss an honest man."

Later, Robb took a moment between handshakes to comment briefly about the night;s events on the Hill. He said he wasn't sure what the reaction had been because he had been isolated during the speech. But he did say that in his own remarks he had "talked about a whole new generation of leadership for the remainder of this century a nd part of the next."

Mitchell was also met with hearty applause.

"Well, here I am," he said, "the 11th person called upon to say nice things about Vera. I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband on his wedding night. I know what to do, but I'll be damned if I know how to make it interesting."

After he had done his best, he closed by saying, "Vera, we do love you."

After the party, Mitchell also spoke of the president's speech.

"I think the reaction was generally that it was too general," he said.

"It's the budget that really matters."

But at this party, it was Vera Murray who really mattered.

"When people ask," said Nancy Kuhn, consultant to the DNC, "I say she's not a lawyer with Akin Gump, she's not a secretary, she's not an executive assistant. She is Bob Strauss."