ATLANTA -- Raymond Lambert, a good ole boy from Rome, Ga., had, like so many other Democrats, come to the biggest-ever Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in the hope of sorting things out for "Super Tuesday."

The parade of candidates did nothing for him. None of them was a patch on his idol, Sam Nunn, Georgia's senior senator.

"Do you think if we went to him and said, 'Senator, you gotta get in this thing,' he would do it?" he wistfully asked the other occupants of Table BR-N10, which was presided over by Juanelle Edwards, the zestful Democratic National Committeewoman from Marietta.

"The idea of Super Tuesday," he mourned, "was to solidify southern sentiment behind a southern candidate."

Now, of course, to the likes of him, Super Tuesday is super-ashes. Instead of Nunn, they are faced with: a small Greek governor from New England; a red-headed Missouri congressman who tells the aggrieved to feel sorry for themselves; a bow-tied, organ-voiced New Dealer from Illinois; a philosopher-philanderer who has decided to stay on the scene to act as a conscience on the issues; a charismatic black minister who is a mocking reminder of the balance in southern voting power, and a handsome son of the South who is alternately an abrasive aggressor and a boy orator.

To make matters worse for the Democrats, who filled two vast ballrooms of the World Congress Center, Sen. Paul Simon made the best speech. It was not quite a swan song from an "unabashed, make-no-apology Democrat," who admitted that he's broke and probably doomed, and urged them to "look for commitment."

"Ain't nobody gonna do better than that tonight," said Lambert flatly when the full silence which Simon was accorded was broken by applause.

Said Edwards, "Simon's written more books than Reagan has read. My heart is with him, but I do believe {Massachusetts Gov. Michael S.} Dukakis will win Georgia."

Lambert snorted at the very idea. "Did you see his profile?" he asked. "Georgia's not ready for that. I'm not sayin' they will never be for an ethnic, but not yet."

Lambert was elected commissioner of his county in 1964. A 27-year-old tablemate, Scott Farrow, a lawyer and Reagan voter in '84, had another problem with Dukakis -- "He's not too ethnic, but he's tied to the liberal end of the party."

Lambert found Dukakis' speech "all over the place." Dukakis, who has a strong presence here in the person of his stepson John, his southern coordinator, a large Greek constituency and much-admired "The Duke in Dixie" T-shirts, was saying that the South is no longer a place apart. Booming Atlanta is proof enough that the South is done with separateness and hostility to the federal government.

He needed only to quote the prophetic words inscribed on the statue of Henry Grady, a giant of the old South, that stands in a downtown square: "Give us the perfect loyalty that loves and trusts Georgia alike with Massachusetts, that knows no South, no North, no East nor West."

Rep. Richard Gephardt fared well at Table BR-N10. The hard-driving opportunist added a domestic enemy to the villains abroad who shut us out of their markets: "Strong forces that resist change for a whole lot of reasons."

Lambert and Farrow both liked him. Lambert found him "attractive geographically -- It's better to be from Missouri than Massachusetts."

Young Albert Gore rang no bells. Gore's belligerence at previous debates had raised southern hackles about incivility and he contented himself with declaiming about "rekindling the American spirit."

Jesse Jackson was the dessert speaker; Hart didn't show. He was saving himself for a briefing, which was not to announce -- as anticipated by those who had bets on it -- that he was going, but that he was staying.

At the Saturday debate, Dukakis took the offensive and efficiently ticked off his critics to their faces.

Most of the pros thought he did well -- Mayor Andrew Young said the process was "revealing" and that Dukakis was showing himself to be the "marathoner."

But you never know with southern sensibilities. A 22-year-old researcher complained that the governor had "nitpicked Gore."

What the weekend with the candidates did mostly was to give them a preview of its convention facilities. Young pointed out that it has four halls, and no end of rooms for smoke-filling should the convention be brokered.

"You see," said Lambert, in his one unclouded moment, "Atlanta is an international city."