The Democrats got in and out of town this week doing just about what Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis - the presidential nominee - wanted.

Like so many aspects of his campaign, Dukakis played the convention correctly.Some may say he gave Jesse Jackson, the second-place finisher in the delegate count, too much.

Not so.

Dukakis knows, as does national party chairman Paul Kirk and other leaders, that the important goal of the convention was to nominate Dukakis with as little rancor and bickering as possible.

And considering the history of Democratic conventions, and the general maverick nature of Democratic delegates, that goal was achieved.

Jackson got his prime-time TV audience. He got most of his platform goals - although with some change in wording - and he got to pick some members on the national committee and staff.

But those, in the long presidential run, are small potatoes; a miniscule price for Dukakis to pay to get Jackson on board for the fall campaign against the clear GOP nominee, Vice President George Bush.

Gone from this convention were the delegate challenges. For the first time in recent history, not one delegate was challenged.

Remember 1972, when a much-younger Jesse Jackson led a bitter delegate challenge that got his contingent seated in the convention and ousted the Chicago delegation that was led by party machine boss Richard Daley?

Nothing like that in Atlanta in 1988. The two disagreements that couldn't be resolved - Jackson's desire for a tax hike on the wealthy and corporations and his hard line on no first nuclear strike, were handled in orderly fashion by the convention.

Both of those Jackson planks were voted down along Jackson-Dukakis delegate lines. And Jackson accepted the results.

A third sticking point, Jackson's Palestinian rights plank, was debated but never even voted on.

Jackson agreed with Dukakis that such a vote on the controversial issue could erode the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote and harm financial support.

Perhaps Jackson did steal the show here, but that's because he is so much more a showman than Dukakis.

If people remember Jackson's face more than Dukakis' from the 1988 convention, you can almost hear Dukakis saying "so what?"

Dukakis is the presidential nominee - not Jackson.

His choice of a running mate, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, is the party's vice presidential nominee - not Jackson.

The platform - now to be forgotten by most voters - remains the broad philosophical document devoid of special interest promises that Dukakis and Kirk wanted.

The convention didn't hinder the Democrats. It may well have helped them.

That's a great outcome for Utah Democrats, who have been embarrassed by their national party's platform and convention antics in the past.

And it's what Dukakis, the careful planner and political artisan, wanted all along.