SEQUESTERED in a small, private suite in the Warwick Hotel, Michael Nutter's inner circle got good news early last night.

Just before 10 p.m., Dick Hayden, a lawyer and lobbyist who has advised Nutter from the beginning, told the small group huddled around laptop computers and picked-over party platters:

"The Inquirer is going to call the race in five minutes."

Applause rang through the room. "In time for the 10 o'clock news," someone called out.

Celebrants included campaign manager Bill Hyers, economic consultant and ward leader Terry Gillen, lawyer Susan Burke and Doc Sweitzer of the Campaign Group, which made Nutter's television ads.

Nutter's wife, Lisa, and other family members rounded out the group. Daughter Olivia, 12, flitted in and out wearing a short, pink, Jackie Kennedy-style dress.

Eventually, Nutter appeared, after receiving calls from several of his rivals.

"I asked them all for help and support," he said. "This is going to take effort."

Nutter said he thought voters had responded to his track record on City Council. He added, "I'm a vigorous campaigner. I'm up early, I'm up late."

Hyers then discussed with Nutter how he would enter the Warwick's ballroom, telling him that he should move through the crowd before making his speech.

"You're the people's candidate," he said. "You should meet the folks who got you elected."

Slowly the family and supporters were escorted out of the room to eventually join Nutter onstage.

As Lisa Nutter exited, a staffer stopped her and called her "the first lady."

"I'm the first chick," she joked.

Lisa Nutter also pulled off the best line during the celebratory speeches when she introduced her husband as "my best friend, my boo, my road dawg. Did I leave anything out?"

Earlier in the day, the Nutters sipped sodas and reflected upon the race at the Famous 4th Street Deli, at 4th and Bainbridge streets.

Nutter noted that going to the vast majority of community forums was key for him to get to know people outside his former councilmanic district.

"For me, the issue was always about exposure," he said.

And while Fattah and Knox duked it out for top spot, he kept his head down, campaigning and making fundraising calls for four or five hours a day.

"My schedule was built around call time," he said.

And the campaign really was a family affair, according to Lisa Nutter.

"This has always been a partnership effort," she said, noting that she discusses education policy with her husband and often helps him with reading on issues. "For us it's very natural to work on this as a family."

Widely considered a campaign breakthrough was the popular television ad featuring Olivia, in which she talks about attending public school.

Nutter said that doing the ad was up to Olivia.

"It was an ask," he said. "It wasn't like, 'You have to do it.' "

But after she thought about it, she said yes. And her parents were stunned by how well she did.

"She had no interest in [performing]," Lisa Nutter said. "We had no idea she had it in her."

Michael Nutter added, "Olivia has been tremendously supportive and enthusiastic." Payback probably will come any day now, he said.

"I think it's going to be an expensive summer," he joked.

Olivia still has to finish the school year and will attend horseback-riding camp this summer. Lisa Nutter said the family had no immediate plans for a vacation.

"We just want to be still for a week," she said.