Presidential elections for Washington are always just around the corner, even when they're three years away. President Reagan was no sooner reelected last year than the speculation for 1988 began. If "inside" political and media types in Washington know what they're talking about -- and one could argue that assumption -- it will be Colorado Sen. Gary Hart with either Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb or Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn against Vice President George Bush and former U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. They pick Bush-Kirkpatrick to win.

There is nothing scientific about this prediction. It's the result of a Sunday party thrown by Martin Plissner, executive political director at CBS-TV News, and his wife, Susan Morrison, who is assignment manager at CBS. Political poll taking comes up at the Plissner-Morrison parties, and this year's get-together included such insiders as Treasury Secretary James Baker, Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., Mr. Conservative Richard Viguerie, former State Department spokesman Hodding Carter, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee John White, political consultant Bob Shrum, Wall Street Journal Washington bureau chief Al Hunt, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, former Hart aide Kathy Bushkin (now with U.S. News & World Report) and CBS Washington bureau chief Jack Smith.

The vote breakdown for Democrats was Hart, 34; New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, 28; Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, 20, and New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, 13. The Republicans were Bush, 64; New York Rep. Jack Kemp, 28; former Tennessee senator Howard Baker, 7, and Kansas Sen. Robert Dole, 3. One footnote worth speculation somewhere else was that about half said a woman would be the Republican vice presidential candidate. For the Democrats, only one voted for a woman for the second spot. Just how reliable are these predictions? Last year they said Reagan would win big. But then, who didn't? End Notes

Royal Watch: five days and counting. The size of the press corps following the royal visitors around promises to be one of the more entertaining events of the royal weekend. Few will catch more than a glimpse of Charles and Diana, including the press, which is expected to number, incredibly, about 500. Mostly they'll be relegated to standing outside in the cold interviewing each other. The reporters should be in a rancorous, unfriendly mood by Nov. 12 when they follow the royals to Springfield Mall to tour the J.C. Penney store. But there they will be greeted by an English butler serving tea and will be given white baseball caps with the British flag and the company logo imprinted on them. Won't those look cute when the press corps descends on snooty Palm Beach, Fla., later in the day . . .

In a strange turn of events, former Beatle Paul McCartney, in an interview published today, branded his late colleague John Lennon a "maneuvering swine" who claimed credit for songs he never wrote. McCartney told Woman magazine that Lennon, who was murdered in New York in 1980, was jealous, suspicious and insecure and caused him years of heartache . . .

For all those people who dug frantically through their Sunday Washington Posts looking for a copy of the British Tourist Authority's magazine on the "Treasure Houses of Britain": Stop looking. The BTA had the slick advertising publication, with its American history error, inserted in only 300,000 of the 1.1 million Sunday Posts. Fewer than half of the subscribers received the publication, and it wasn't stuffed in the papers in street news racks, either . . .

Actor James Caan, Sonny Corleone in the now classic film "The Godfather," showed up to watch the trial of a reputed Mafia boss in New York yesterday and was promptly subpoenaed as a prosecution witness. Federal prosecutor Bruce Baird confirmed Caan had been subpoenaed, but would give no details. Caan said he was the boyhood friend of Andy Russo, a defendant and a reputed gang leader. This one bears watching.