In the end, John B. Anderson was philosophical and good-humored. He bore no bitterness, showed no pain. He sounded not as he was ending a long and arduous campaign, but just beginning one.
He started out as an asterisk in the polls and after 16 long months of campaigning was not much more than that in the presidential race.
He spent election night worrying not about winning or losing, but about whether or not he would collect 5 percent of the vote -- enough to qualify him for federal campaign funds desperately needed to repay his $5 million campaign debt.
Yet he seemed untouched by the experience. He was bouncing, almost exuberant as he watched the returns in his 10th floor suite at the Hyatt Regency Hotel here with several dozen of his oldest friends and supporters. At one point, his wife, Keke, looked at him, straightening his tie, and said, "Smile. Carter is not elected."
"I think he feels he did what was right and he has no regrets," said speechwriter George Lehner. "He just doesn't look back. He fought his fight. Tomorrow is another day." "
Anderson called Ronald Reagan to congratulate him on his victory at 8:35. But he didn't go down to greet a crowd of about a thousand supporters until almost two hours later.When he did he sparked a long round of chants of "84, 84, 84." He did this by saying, "The returns clearly show I am not destined to be the next president of the United States -- that is a decision deferred."
Anderson was introduced as "the man who should be president" by his vice presidential running mate, Patrick J. Lucey, who said that he intends to become rich by printing in a few months bumper stickers which say, "Don't blame me: I voted for Anderson."
"I am not bruised in spirit or in mind," Anderson told his cheering supporters. "This campaign has been the greatest event of my life. And I hope we at least hold at 7 percent so it doesn't turn out to be the most expensive."
Anderson's closest aides had given up hope weeks ago of winning any more than a state or two, and they knew their candidate had no chance of winning yesterday. His press secretary Tom Matthews joked that an acceptance speech had been prepared in the unlikely event that Anderson should win. It contained just three words: "I'll be damned."
But the campaign was clearly surprised by the small percentage of the Anderson vote. It places the campaign in a serious financial crisis, raising questions about how it will repay its debts.
Anderson is eligible for federal campaign subsidies only if he receives 5 percent or more of the vote. A 5 percent showing would bring the campaign almost $3.1 million. The amount increases in proportion to his showing in the polls.
The concession speech was typical of Anderson's upbeat behavior in recent days. He has quoted Thoreau and Tennyson. He has sung hymns in the wee hours of the morning with the reporters who traveled with him on his campaign plane, "Rosinante" -- named after Don Quixote's horse.
And he has insisted "pessimism has not taken over my soul." It wasn't until Monday night in a emotional speech at his alma mater, the University of Illinois, that he even hinted that he might not win the presidency.
Last night, he closed his concession speech with almost identical lines that he had used Monday at the University of Illinois.
His words are worth repeating for what they reveal about the man and his old-fashioned eloquence. They began with him quoting from Alfred, Lord Tennyson: I am part of all I have been. Yet all experience is an arch Where through gleams that untravled world Whose margin fades forever and ever when I move. How dull it is to pause, to make an end.
Then, his voice rising with emotion, Anderson added, "There is a sense in which this campaign has come to an end. And yet my friends let us never express the dullness of believing that we have paused in the good goals we have set for ourselves. In that sense this campaign must not, it shall not, end for me and I hope not for you."
This was vintage Anderson and it captured what he thinks his six-month independent campaign for the presidency accomplished. He believes that the fact that he was able to raise more than $10 million, get on the ballot of every state, and raise the issue of a "new conservation ethic" made his campaign worthwhile, regardless of how many votes he receives.
The students at the University of Illinois loved it. They stomped. They shouted, "Jba, jba, JBA." They threw confetti. They waved placards and balloons.
But all year Anderson had trouble selling his message away from college campuses and affluent, white suburbia. By last week, even the most optimistic of his aides gave him only a remote chance of carrying two states -- Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Anderson refused to the end to admit that publicly, insisting that all public opinion polls were somehow wrong. "I don't care what those poll figures show," he said in Minneapolis Monday. "There are thousands and thousands of dedicated people from one end of the country to another who contributed money to our campaign, who put us on the ballots in 50 states. These people aren't just going to shrivel up and die."
Ironically, the further behind he fell in the polls, the better a campaigner Anderson became. He matured as a candidatte, became looser, more forceful. Once reluctant to shake hands with voters, he now plunged into crowds with a vengeance.
His performance impressed reporters who watched other candidates this year as their once-high hopes turned to dust. When that happened to John Connally, during the Republican primaries, he became bitter and resentful. When it happened to George Bush, he became confused and uncertain.
When it happened to Anderson, he became classier, more dignified.
Yet the realities of politics are cruel. Anderson ended the campaign $4 million in debt. When he was asked today what would happen if he didn't get 5 percent of the vote, which would mean he wouldn't receive federal campaign subsidies to repay that money, his wife, Keke, popped out, "We're both going to get a job."
Anderson, in his final days, also began looking increasingly towards the future, hinting that he might form a third party. A song he and his aides sang at a farewell party Monday night in Rockford captured this as well as anything. Its words, sung to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, went: I can tell you all sincerely that it hasn't been a bore; But off we go -- our solo way -- the campaign that is no more. But never count us out too soon -- there's still 1984. We'll see you on the trail. Glory, glory -- we're not through yet Glory, glory -- we're independent. Glory, glory -- you can count on it!