Some of the finest political minds of this generation bet $1 each on the outcome of a host of elections last month, and a few pros you might have expected to lead the pack made dismal showings.

The event was the 1978 election pool hosted by employes of the National Journal. Participants had to answer 35 questions that called for a mixed bag of predictions covering House, Senate and statehouse races. When the nation's votes were counted, some of those in the statistical cellar were Vice President Mondale's press secretary, Al Eisele, presidential media adviser Jerry Rafshoon, Wall Street Journal political scribe Al Hunt and the coauthor of The Almanac of American Politics, Michael Barone.

The winners, tied for first place, were National Journal reporters Tim Clark, who covers regulatory agencies, and Robert Samuelson, an economics specialist.

"I'll tell you what the difficulty was -- it was easier than last time," complains one loser, Barone. As vice president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, a public opinion research firm, Barone is known for his extraordinary ability to recall political minutiae. He was the champion in the 1976 sweepstakes, but this time around couldn't touch the $69 the two winners split. "I thought it would be unfair," he says modestly, "to take all that money away from all those people."