Last night Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton wasn't having even a taste of the catfish or the juicy ribs before going off to the White House for the dinner for governors.

As the second youngest man (then at 32) elected to a governorship last fall -- Harold Stassen, who keeps running to this day, holds the record by a year -- Clinton has found a political career is beset by many hazards, including the cook at the governor's mansion.

"I've gained 15 pounds since moving into the state mansion," explained the abstemious Clinton. "No governor can risk serving more than one term. I'll be 280 pounds at the end of my term at the rate I'm going."

The 33-year-old governor might pass for a fresh-faced college sophomore. But he has shown himself to be a shrewd, engaging politician and Democratic Party comer.

Last night he stopped by for the fourth annual Johnson Fish Fry at the International Inn on Thomas Circle. (The Lewis Johnsons, senior and junior, father and son, both active in Arkansas politics, gave the party for a "little get-together with friends.")

"Red" Johnson, the father, an expansive man with a firm shoulder lock, flew in from Arkansas with 150 pounds of catfish packed in ice to serve at his cocktail-buffet last night.

A former lobbyist for the Arkansas farmers' union, he now works with Green Thumb, an organization of 17,000 senior citizens with an average age of 70 -- "just like me."

There was an ice sculpture of an Arkansas razorback hog on the table that looked rather more like the Triceratops dinosaur at the Smithsonian Institution.

"The Razorbacks," said "Red" Johnson. "I was captain of the University of Arkansas football team that won the conference title in 1933. Now that young Bill Clinton. He's a comer."

Hodding Carter, the State Department's official spokesman, came by for a taste of catfish even though he is not from Arkansas but Mississippi. After the long hours of watching the Iranian and Chinese-Vietnamese crisis, Carter said he was glad for a break.

"I haven't had catfish for years," he added. "If the boss asks me what I have been doing, I'll tell him what I should be doing more often."