Even though Lloyd Bentsen lost his bid to become the next vice president, the tall and lean Texan will be back in the nation's capital next year, probably wielding more power than ever.

He will carry that power as a newly elected fourth-term senator and as chairman of the influential Finance Committee, where he will be ready to battle a George Bush administration over the staggering national deficit."He's going to be the voice, nationally, of the Democratic Party," predicted Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards, keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention that paired Bentsen with Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

For a time Tuesday, the 67-year-old Bentsen, having gained national stature as the most popular of the four men on either presidential ticket, hoped to be much more by night's end.

Capturing nearly 60 percent of the vote, he defeated Republican Rep. Beau Boulter in the Senate race, and then saw Texas and the nation elect Bush. Bentsen ended the campaign gracefully but with a final flurry of fire.

Addressing 1,500 cheering and appreciative supporters at a downtown hotel, his voice cracking from exhaustion, he said: "Mike Dukakis made me proud to be his running mate and proud to be an American. He and I waged a campaign worthy of the American people. We told you the truth. We stepped up to the issues."

Despite all the negativism of the campaign, he said, "We fought fair."

Bentsen spoke from the the century-old Driskill Hotel, where 28 years ago another Texas senator, Lyndon Johnson, celebrated Election Day.