The Georgia crowd from the White House, led by President Carter, treated itself to a last hurrah at the Sugar Bowl today and found the experience far more enjoyable than the presidential election -- this time their side won.
Surrounded by members of his family, old friends and senior staff aides, the president sat in a 50-yardline seat in New Orleans' Superdome and saw his home-state University of Georgia Bulldogs win the 47th annual Sugar Bowl contest and move a step closer to its first national collegiate football championship by defeating Notre Dame, 17 to 10.
The trip to the Sugar Bowl today was one of the few treats that Carter has allowed himself since his defeat to Ronald Reagan in November. Since then, he has not left Washington except to go to the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., and to spend Christmas at his home in Plains, Ga.
But today the president, accompanied by his wife, Rosalynn, daughter, Amy, son, Jeff, and daughter-in-law, Annette, left the snow that covered the nation's capital and flew south, stopping en route in Atlanta to pick up a number of old friends and take them to New Orleans.
Among these were former budget director Bert Lance, former attorney general Griffin Bell, Georgia Gov. George Busbee, Atlanta Constitution editor Hal Gulliver, and Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner. The party also included Carter's longtime friend and adviser, Atlanta lawyer Charles H. Kirbo, and his two occasional fishing companions from Brunswick, Ga., Carlton Hicks and Jim Bishop.
White House officials said that the 22 people who boarded Air Force One at Dobbins Air Force Base outside Atlanta were "official guests" of the president, meaning that their transportation was paid for by the government.
Some of Carter's closest senior advisers also traveled with him to New Orleans for the game, including White House Chief of staff Jack Watson, former chief of staff Hamilton Jordan, press secretary Jody Powell, congressional relations chief Frank Moore and budget director James T. McIntyre Jr.
The president arrived here in early afternoon warmth and sunshine for the game. He said nothing during the day about the weighty affairs of state that are his responsibility until noon Jan. 20.
Instead, Carter, sitting amid a sea of red shirts on the Georgia side of the huge, enclosed 80,000-seat Super-dome, concentrated on football, as did millions of other American at the same time.
He clearly enjoyed the show as Georgia built a 17-to-3 halftime lead, and hung on in the second half to win the game.
The president left New Orleans immediately after the game and stopped in Atlanta to drop off his guests before returning to Washington tonight.