Nice as it is to wake up this morning and realize the election is over, there is the sobering reflection that there is always another one to come.
These words were written before the results of the mid-term voting were known -- but not before some politicians were moving into position for the 1984 campaign.
Anticipating a landslide re-election victory on Tuesday, Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania let reporters know that he was available in Washington last weekend to discuss his campaign and the lessons it might hold for his party.
Heinz is one of a half-dozen Republicans who want to be ready for 1984, in case President Reagan decides not to seek a second term. If some of the others were not holding similar sessions, it was only because they were so worn-out from their off-year political travels they could barely talk.
Sens. Bob Dole of Kansas and Howard Baker Jr. -- both presidential aspirants in 1980 and, presumably, in 1984 if Reagan says no -- were out campaigning for fellow Republicans almost every day in October. So was Rep. Jack Kemp of New York.
But the champion GOP traveler was Vice President George Bush, who was stumping almost nonstop from Labor Day to Election Day. Bush must have had the same scheduler that labor's Mary Zon once encountered in a Democratic presidential campaign -- a man who plotted the candidate's course by soil sample and wind drift. I was with Bush on a day when his main stops were Cape Girardeau, Mo., and San Francisco. Last week, I noticed, he did the always enchanting Jackson, Miss.-to-Boise, Idaho, run. No wonder there were days he seemed a bit punchy.
If Bush was hearing footsteps on his weird trail, they were probably those of his predecessor, former vice president Walter F. Mondale, who was the champion traveler on the Democratic circuit. Mondale frazzled himself into the granddaddy of all head colds, with the result that when he was seen on one of the network interview programs late in the campaign, he let the whole country watch a half-hour demonstration of his nose-blowing technique.
But nobody ever said there was a lot of dignity in running for president. Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado found that out when sharing a ride in a light plane with a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who had a notably queasy stomach and a fear of flying.
The pursuit of the golden dream impelled Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts to read nursery rhymes in a Chicago play school and sent Sen. John Glenn riding, in a proper business suit, down the sweltering streets of Sylvester, Ga., as grand marshal of the Peanut Festival Parade.
This is a kind of insane drill to which we subject the presidential hopefuls. But in theory, at least, they can use the off- year campaigning to hone their skills and prepare for the rigorous tests still to come.
There are two or three lessons we can all learn from the 1982 campaign that may be useful for 1984. This year, once again, demonstrated the value of debates as a forum for exposing the candidates' positions and personalities. I was particularly impressed with the series of weekly Monday night debates, carried on public television, in the Connecticut Senate race -- each lasting an hour and focusing on a particular policy area.
As the presidential candidates make their formal announcements, we in the press ought to try to get them committed to taking part in such a series of debates as long as they are in the race -- and, particularly, if they make it to the general election. We should not go through the fancy dodge-'em game that delayed the presidential debate until the final week of the 1980 campaign.
In several states I visited, notably California and Illinois, the debates were sharpened by eliminating the panel of reporters and allowing the candidates to question each other directly. It is better theater that way -- and, I thought, it more sharply defined the issues. That technique is worth trying in the presidential campaign.
On the other hand, 1982 was a year of gross distortions in political advertising, with an unhealthy emphasis on besmirching the opponent. The most effective way of curbing this sludge in 1984 would be to get the presidential candidates to promise, in advance, that they will screen each new commercial for the press on the day it goes on the air -- and thereby allow the opposition to respond before the smear sticks.