Another campaign is over, and once again, in response to public demand, the American Society of Aging Pundits (ASAP's membership is one) is ready to hand out its coveted awards for real -- and dubious -- political achievements. The envelopes, please.
Unlikely spiritual high point of the year: The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, standing on a frozen, windswept corner in Manchester, N.H., and getting a crowd of stoic, undemonstrative Yankee shoppers to chant along with him, "I-am-some-body."
Unlikely spiritual low point: The Rev. Jerry Falwell, delivering the benediction to a Republican convention session and finding the floor nearly empty of delegates -- who had streamed out looking for parties and booze. Falwell realized that he was praying over a few trapped sinners, finishing up their stories in the press stand, about the same instant we realized he was praying over us. A true communion of kindred spirits it was not.
Best-managed candidate: Clearly Ronald Reagan, whose triumvirate of Jim Baker, Stu Spencer and Ed Rollins knew their man's strengths and weaknesses so perfectly that they calculated at least six months ago that in order to have the best chance to win, he needed to have exactly two debates -- no more and no less. Rollins deserves an additional award for his unfailing candor throughout the campaign.
Best-unmanaged candidate (a special category created because of the honoree's exceptional qualities): Sen. Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, who had everything a candidate needs to become president -- brains, looks, experience, humor and oratory. All he lacked was a strategy, an organization, money, ads -- and someone to tell him when to hush up.
Worst-managed candidate (a dual award this year): Sen. John Glenn of Ohio, whose hired hands somehow managed to make a national hero who is also a decent, attractive human being, into a politically unmarketable product. And Vice President George Bush, who was encouraged by his handlers to campaign as if this were the last national election for him -- not Reagan.
Best political tactic: Fritz Mondale's turning to Gary Hart in the Atlanta debate and asking, "Where's the beef?" The line, first used by AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland to question Hart's "new ideas" theme, was suggested to Mondale by campaign manager Bob Beckel, and was delivered perfectly.
Also, Mondale's man Tom Donilon once again proved himself the best delegate- counter and delegate-producer in the business, delivering the majority Mondale needed the day after the final primaries, despite the California wipeout.
Worst political tactic: Come back on stage, Fritz. You get this one, too, for the abortive move to dump Chuck Manatt and bring in Bert Lance as Democratic national chairman on the eve of the San Francisco convention. It was an effort that offended everyone, including the southerners it was supposed to please, and left even loyalists wondering who was calling the shots.
The tapes we most want to save: Geraldine Ferraro walking into the Minnesota state capitol to be introduced as Mondale's choice for a running-mate and coming onto the Moscone Center platform to become the first woman vice presidential candidate.
The tapes we would most like to erase: Sen. Barry Goldwater, a man of tolerance and good will, ranting about "Democrat wars" at the Republican convention. And Mondale and Hart arguing, during the New York primary, about who was most committed to moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Best press secretary: In a year when White House aides turned out the lights on cameramen and stiff-armed would-be questioners, and Mondale's handlers picked over the newspapers for items they could argue about, and both vetoed scores of journalists for the panel on the first debate, one person stood out in shining contrast. She was Hart's press secretary, Kathy Bushkin. She was indefatigable in providing information before the press "discovered" Hart, untiring and unflappable when the "pack" arrived demanding access to him in New Hampshire and thereafter, and uncomplaining and professional when critical scrutiny and political reverses came Hart's way.
Most modest overachiever: Ron Briggs, the college student who ran Hart's campaign in the Maine caucuses and was simultaneously thrilled and embarrassed by his role in defeating the pro-Mondale older- generation politicians he admired.
Most immodest underachiever: Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell, who did not have a presidential candidate of his own (after playing guru to George McGovern and Jimmy Carter) but took credit in the political columns whenever things went well for Hart and Mondale and was nowhere to be found when they suffered reverses.
The real heroes and heroines: You folks, who read these columns all year, watched the conventions, the debates and the political ads -- and still had the courage to go out and vote. Thanks for the memories.