The man down the street was wondering what the guard dog and police were doing, sniffing all around the Russells' front-yard yew bushes like they were looking for bombs. "Political or criminal?" he asked.

Nancy Reagan, he was told, was coming to visit a childhood home in Bethesda where she'd had tea on the lawn with her doll. Yesterday it was Stop One on a Maryland campaign trip.

"Oh," said the man, relieved, "I live a few blocks away and just wanted to know if the neighborhood was safe, that's all. Thank you very much."

The woman next door on Glenbrooke Road, waiting near a Ford station wagon with a Montgomery Soccer Inc. bumper sticker, decided she had time to run in for a cigarette. "What's she going to do -- just go in and have a look?" asked the woman. "Sounds like a good gimmick. Homespun charm."

"Are they going to cover all the places she's lived?" Inquired her husband.

"Oh, my," said Nancy Reagan, "I used to have tea parties with my doll out here. I remember distinctly that there was a white bench, and there was a screened-in porch, and an empty lot where we used to play kick-the-can after dinner."

All the reporters wrote this down. Then in she went, up the walkway, up the concrete steps, past the bushes and the American eagle on the mailbox and the American flag jutting from the white clapboard. The grass smelled wet from rain the night before.

Robert Russell, house owner: "I don't want a whole lot of publicity."

Violet Russell, his mother, to reporters: "I don't like all this prying. To go in and look at all the doors and nails, to me, that's just ridiculous. Who cares whether it has a stairway going up off the living room?"

Robert Russell again: "It's something they just pushed on me, you know?"

To the TV reporters he said: "I was happy to do this for her. I never thought Mrs. Reagan would show up in my front yard." What They Said About Her

"I knew her for three years in California, before her husband was governor. I was on the Mother's Club board with her, because our children went to school together. We met once a month and had coffee and rolls. She's not a bit affected, and she always had a lot of input. I won't say she was bossy, but she had a lot to say. And always so beautifully groomed. She and Ron always took the hot dog stand at the school fair every year." -- Nancy Chalmers, Potomac, Md., at a Women's Republican Club luncheon in Glen Burnie.

"I think she'd be an excellent first lady because I don't think she'd try to run the country . . . Any woman who has run a large home or an estate has a full-time job in entertaining as well as maintaining a smooth-running household." -- Elaine Sanz, Washington, D.C., at the same luncheon.

"They kind of just whip her in, move her around, poor thing."

-- A voice in the crowd during a "Welcome to Baltimore" reception at the Convention Center.

"God, she's so pretty."

-- Another voice, same crowd, same reception. What She Looked Like

Perfect. Perfect.

Starting from the top, her hair is a frosty blond. It is whipped into soft curls around her face, which is delicate and radiant and has just the right amount of color. There is just alittle bit of makeup on her eyes, which on the campaign trail consistently pop open round as silver dollars, as if in delighted surprise.

Her blouse is silky, white and loose, and the vest black with red piping. The skirt is a black and white print and her shoes and purse matching black patent.

Her hands are small, with veins and brown spots. Her Answers to the Press

"He didn't make any bloopers. Everything he said was right."

"After the Republican convention, you go up. After the Democratic convention, you go down. That's to be expected."

Q: What kind of a first lady will you be?

A: "We'll see.When I get there, you ask." Remarks at the Lucheon

"I can remember so clearly the screened-in porch and the vacant lot next door where we played kick the can. And down the basement, we kept a big piece of milk chocolate, and the big treat on Saturday night was getting a piece of it . . .

"And I can remember sitting on the lawn -- lawn, there's not much of a lawn -- the grass in front of the house, having a tea party with my doll." What She Ate on the Trail

Nothing. The Tours

Whoosh. The first one, where she joined Barbara Bush, was the Convention Center. Bzzzzzt, she was gone up the escalator. Bzzzzzzt, she was gone up another one. Shuffle, ummphhf, grummpff, the minicams in pursuit. S'cuse me, would ya?

You had to jog to keep up.

The second one was at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Zip, zip, zip past Foodangles, Toad's Stool, Flying Fruit Fantasy, chocolate chip cookies, warm and plump. Lots of glass, indoor trees, wicker, lunchtime secretaries, espadrilles.

And children. She stooped by an escalator and hugged two.

"My name is P.J.," and P.J. The reporters got his last name.

"In about 15 years, he'll be old enough to vote," said P. J.'s father. The Entourage

There were two VIP cars, two press cars, Secret Service cars and a trial car. There were also police escorts, and leaving Baltimore, police escorts on motorcycles.

Allan Levey, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party in a state where the Republicans are outnumbered nearly 2 to 1, joined the entourage after lunch. "If we can deliver Maryland to Gov. Reagan in November, that could possibly be the 10 electoral votes that will put him over the top," he said from the dais.

Nancy Reagan watched him, immobile, blinking occasionally. Her lipstick gleamed. Still Another Stop

The band played "Nancy With the Laughing Face" outside Rep. Marjorie Holt's (R-Md.) headquarters in Severna. The crowd was mostly senior citizens. The landscape was parking lots and McDonald's, Burger King, Sunoco and Tidy Car signs.

"I'm sorry I'm late," said Nancy Reagan. "I was doing a little bit of reminiscing. I went back to see a little house I lived in when I was a little girl . . ."