ALTHOUGH you couldn't tell by his smiling cheerfulness, Tuesday ended badly for Bob Brady.

He entered the Sheetmetal Workers Hall on Delaware Avenue to whoops, applause, cheers and a band playing McFadden & Whitehead's "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" - but he had been stopped.

Surrounded by Democratic Party machine loyalists who had given him their all, he had to settle for kisses and bear hugs instead of the mayoral nomination.

Philadelphia Democratic Party Chairman Brady had made himself a candidate, risked his clout, and lost for the second time in his political life. (The first was a failed Council at-large race in 1981.)

On Monday, when I asked Brady what he'd do if he lost, he joked, "I'll be crying in my towel."

He didn't. Instead, he used his concession speech Tuesday to wave a metaphoric rally towel for Michael Nutter, the outsider/insider Democratic nominee to whom Brady pledged complete support.

(For the record, I've known Brady for two decades; I am a Democratic committeeman who supported him. My fellow Center City committeemen were fragmented, with a plurality liking Nutter.)

The best consolation for Brady was that the guy the People Paper headlined as "Fort Knox" blamed him for his defeat.

That made Brady smile. "Tom Knox blames me for his loss? I blame him," he said.

With Knox taking the Northeast and narrowly losing South Philly to Brady, you'd say maybe Knox has a point.

Although it wasn't his game plan, Brady may have been the spoiler who allowed Nutter to win, by taking two vote-rich South Philly wards that Knox could have won.

If spoiler wasn't Brady's game plan, what was?

Some political insiders say state Sen. Vince Fumo pushed a vacillating Brady into the race. You ever try pushing a former carpenter and Council sergeant-at-arms with a size 20 neck?

Brady said simply, "No."

Making the arduous campaign seem like his annual summer Brady Bunch party in North Wildwood, Brady said, "I had a good time. I made a lot of new friends and I kept my old friends."

Then came the True Reason:

"I just got tired of Tom Knox talking about the Democratic Party."

When Brady says "talking," he means "talking smack."

As much as family, God and country, Brady loves Philadelphia and the Democratic Party.

But does the Democratic Party still love him back?

He had the support of 59 out of 69 ward leaders - and finished third. A machine that can't deliver votes is like taking your sister to the prom. It's heart-warming, but embarrassing.

Have his power, prestige and clout been diminished?

"I doubt it," he said, without bragging. "I called to congratulate Michael. We've been friends. I told him, 'We're with you.' "

Some think Nutter might try to oust Brady as chairman.

"No," Nutter said yesterday. "Bob Brady and I have a great working relationship," although Nutter does have some ideas for "opening up" the party.

Nutter needs Brady as "the glue that holds us together" (as mayoral dropout Jonathan Saidel described Brady Tuesday night); he needs Chaka Fattah in Washington; he needs Dwight Evans in Harrisburg.

If the three also-rans work with him - as they promise to - Nutter is sitting pretty. With any luck, so is Philadelphia. *

E-mail stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. For recent columns: