There certainly are those who view the last days of the Reagan administration as the last gasp of the ballyhooed conservative revolution. But for sure, they were not invited last night.

Instead, from Ronald Reagan on down, 1,000 of the right kind of folks were on hand at the Omni Shoreham Hotel for the 15th annual kickoff dinner of the Conservative Political Action Conference. "Get ready," the president assured the assembled about his remaining foreign policy agenda. "The curtain hasn't fallen. The drama continues."

It was a pep rally and a prom -- but most importantly it was a "Salute to the Reagans." But first, why are these people smiling when their darling is finishing his final dance? Consider their reaction to Pat Robertson's surprise second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

"Robertson rejuvenated a faction of the party. The movement needs a standard-bearer, and he may be it," said L. Brent Bozell, a Jack Kemp supporter and head of the Conservative Victory Committee. Of Vice President Bush's third-place finish, he added, "It was a reaffirmation of what many of us had been saying -- which is that Bush is to the movement what cauliflower is to salad -- nothing."

"There is a concern that {Robertson} can't win the nomination," said Joseph Chambers, a minister and activist from Charlotte, N.C. "But the Iowa vote indicates a tremendous concern for traditional values. He tends to pull the other candidates toward him to find out why people are listening to him."

"He did well among people not normally politically active," said Scott Stanley, editor in chief of Conservative Digest. "There was a great political awakening."

CPAC is a conference of right-leaning groups that gathers conservative leaders, academics and public officials for an exchange of ideas. The president is always the star attraction, but over the next few days the conference will hear from Robertson and Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency director Ken Adelman and contra leader Adolfo Calero, among others. David Keane, chairman of the American Conservative Union, introduced the president by saying he wanted to "thank a man who has left his mark on this country ... who will be remembered as a man who made America a better place to live." And for his part, Ronald Reagan did not disappoint on this somewhat sentimental occasion.

He used the opportunity to rally the troops for another win in November. "Right now, some of the Potomac seers are saying we conservatives are tired," he said. "Or they're saying we don't have a candidate, that we don't know what to do with ourselves this year. My fellow conservatives ... this year is about ... letting them know just how big our election year will be because of booming growth and individual opportunity."

The president went on to tout the administration's record economically and with respect to social policy and foreign affairs. His big pitch of the night came with regard to his failed efforts at securing a congressional vote for contra aid last week.

"Let me make this pledge to you tonight," he said. "We're not giving up on those fighting for their freedom -- and they're not either. I'll have more on this in a few weeks."

On the lighter side, the entertainment for the evening came from Soviet e'migre' and professional comic Yakov Smirnoff. Some of his lines were not meant for a family newspaper. But here are a few:

"The Democrats were asked about their position on a female vice president candidate, and Gary Hart said, 'Missionary.' "

"Jesse Jackson says it costs $30,000 to send someone to prison and $5,000 to college. His new campaign slogan is: 'Use a gun, go to Yale.' "

"Mikhail Gorbachev didn't want to come to the United States. But Raisa wanted to see the top Russian ballet dancers."

"In California they used the expression 'hang ten.' Now in Russia, that means something completely different."

Smirnoff went on to tell his audience that his favorite kind of film is the American Western. "Things were so much simpler then," he said. "Then overnight a town's tranquillity is shattered. A peace-loving people are surrounded by guns until one man makes the town peaceful again."

And then, in keeping step with the sentimentality of the night, he said: "And when things looked bad recently ... one man from the West Coast came. His horse was Air Force One and his town was America."

The crowd jumped to its feet and whistled and clapped. After all, the president is one of them.