Teddy and Fritz didn't make it, but Gary, Reubin, Alan, John and the other Fritz wouldn't have missed it for the world.
With the 1982 midterm election barely over, Democratic Party leaders from around the country gathered here to look at 1984 and the presidential hopefuls who wanted to show their wares.
Each candidate tried to offer a new, improved version of himself, fresh with insights from the campaign trail and the elections.
Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) tried to shed his reputation as a stodgy, if not downright boring, orator with fresh lines and a spruced-up delivery.
Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), trying to run as the "idea candidate," proposed that every presidential hopeful supply the party a specific set of "ideas for our party's and our country's future."
Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), saying he "diverged significantly" from the pack on nuclear disarmanent, proposed a Camp David-style summit with the Soviet Union's new leader to deal with the arms race.
The meeting of state Democratic chairmen was the first time presidential hopefuls have appeared before national party leaders since the Democratic midterm convention last June in Philadelphia, and the group is important. With changes in party rules, every state chairman and vice chairman will automatically become a delegate to the 1984 convention. The state committees they head also will handpick 14 percent of the delegates.
The gathering took place amid warnings that Democrats stand to lose the next election unless they change their ways.
Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster, said party gains Nov. 2 were more a negative reaction to Reaganomics than a vote of confidence in his party.
Candidates wined and dined party leaders from 38 states during the three-day meeting, an intimate, first-name affair. Former Florida governor Reubin Askew hosted a lunch today at Antoine's, the city's oldest restaurant. Sen. Ernest F. (Fritz) Hollings (D-S.C.), held a small dinner at Arnaud's, another expensive eatery. Gary Hart gathered a handful of leaders at Kolbs, a German restaurant.
Glenn and Hollings received the warmest applause after their formal appearances. "I thought Hart was good until I heard Glenn," said Skipper Martin, executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party. "There's a lot of good talk about Glenn around here."
Hollings impressed party leaders as a candid candidate willing to buck the tide. He was, for example, the only candidate to describe himself as a "hawk" on defense, the only one to criticize the party's tactics during the '82 campaign.
Democrats "could have had a landslide" in the election, but didn't because the party lacked "direction and a theme," he said. "We didn't produce in Washington the last couple of years and we didn't produce in Philadelphia."
Glenn scored with some self-deprecating humor. He began his speech by beating on the podium as if it were a big bass drum. "I'm here because I think every Democratic gathering needs one charismatic, electrifying speaker," he said with a huge grin.
But there was no clear winner or loser here, and the front-runners didn't come: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who had another commitment, and former vice president Walter F. (Fritz) Mondale, who simply chose to stay away.
"Like most Democrats, we are really listening here," said Rose Kind, executive director of the California Democratic Party. "Old alliances and old ties don't mean as much to us as they used to. We're going to be very cold and pragmatic about getting a candidate who is a winner."