"Great, Richard Nixon can be his chief of staff," one especially sarcastic New York advertising executive said yesterday.

And no wonder. Gary Hart's noontime announcement of his resurrected candidacy presents an image problem of immense proportions. Suddenly the politician reduced to Letterman jokes and the unspoken subtext of a blue jeans commercial has to look presidential again.

In the spirit of the season -- with the once and future Hart campaign facing financial pressures and all -- a number of generous souls have offered their help. Advice has been gathered from the advertising industry, where people have the comparatively simple task of selling colas and shampoos; from columnists, psychiatrists and other professional advice-givers; from the daily traffickers in this sort of imagery, political campaign consultants; and from the startled electorate itself.

Jaws dropped along Madison Avenue yesterday at Gary Hart's announcement. Asked how they would repackage Hart if he were their client, most advertising people sounded very glad he wasn't. Or as Cliff Freeman, who dreamed up Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign, put it, "Oh boy. Whew. Jeez. I don't know."

Nevertheless, these are pros. If they can transform Chrysler's turned-back odometers into a testimonial to Lee Iacocca's honesty, reassure investors after Oct. 19, and persuade millions of people to try something called a wine cooler, they can try selling Gary Hart.

Freeman, now president of Cliff Freeman & Partners, thinks Hart's media campaign "should position him as a real intellectual, a visionary, a person with so many positive things to offer that the American people can say he still comes out with the best batting average ... to make {viewers} so excited about the pluses that they forget about the minuses." He's even got a mathematical slogan in mind: "When You Add It All Up Gary Hart's the One."

"He can run on the line that experience is a good teacher, and he's a man who learns from his mistakes," says Hal Fass, a Grey Advertising executive on the Kool-Aid account. No voiceovers or mountaintop poses this time -- "he'd be better off talking to the people. If he's to get any credibility back, he has to be very open."

And where should the spot be shot? "A bordello. No, seriously. He should stay away from boats," Fass thinks aloud. "Something from his home, at home with his family." With the candidate in a suit, not a sweater. "He's more than established that he's a casual kinda guy."

He'll need a campaign song, of course. And if he's going after baby boomers again, he'll need one of those nostalgic '60s tunes, muses Alan Braunstein, senior writer at J. Walter Thompson. Maybe Lesley Gore's "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To." No, that would be better for Pat Schroeder. Something Motown, like those dancing raisins use. The Four Tops' "Can't Help Myself."

Braunstein envisions Hart confronting the character issue head on. "You see him in a bar, and you see all these women walking past," Braunstein muses. "And you see him dying to do something about it. They're flirting with him; they're all over him. And he looks right at the camera and says, 'You don't think I'd make the same mistake twice?' "

And then, Hart will need a motto. "He has to acknowledge the problem," Braunstein advises. "It could be 'Gary Hart: I'm Only Human.'

" 'This Time I Won't Screw Up.'

" 'Pretend It Never Happened.' "

Everybody's a comedian. At DJMC in Los Angeles, currently reveling in the success of its "Mac Tonight" ads for McDonald's, creative director Bill Harper and senior copywriter Stan Kaplan approach the problem as they would any product that claimed to be new and improved. "Because he's coming back, he's changing, things get reformulated," Harper explained. " 'The New Gary Hart -- No More Monkey Business.' Or, 'The New Gary Hart -- This Time We'll Get It Right.' " Sort of like detergent, Harper says. " 'New Trust Added. Now Cleaner Than Ever Before.' "

But seriously, folks. Richard Kirshenbaum, executive director of Kirshenbaum & Bond, which created Donna Rice's commercials for No Excuses jeans, thinks the Monkey Business business should "become a nonissue. The American public has a way of forgiving their downfallen celebrities. After a while, it's just part of your colorful patchwork."

No Excuses, incidentally, has announced that Donna Rice won't be representing the sportswear line any more. "We just thought we needed someone more newsworthy and happening," a spokesman said yesterday. "A new No Excuses girl has been signed."

There's no need to dwell on Kirshenbaum's fantasy of basing a campaign on Great Presidential Womanizers, featuring that black-and-white film clip of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday." Or on a slogan suggested by John van der Zee, a copywriter at McCann-Erickson in San Francisco: "You want Kennedyesque, I'll give you Kennedyesque."

On to the fund-raising problem. "He should get the same kind of 900 telephone number that Jim and Tammy Bakker have, where he makes money on every phone call," suggests Adweek critic Barbara Lippert. "A message from him and Lee. From the Hart."

Or Hart could just take the advice that Jerry DellaFemina of DellaFemina Travisano & Partners offered back when Hart withdrew. "He should change his name again."

Among professional advice-givers -- the people who spend their days doling out nuggets of useful, or at least entertaining, wisdom -- there is little agreement about how the born-again campaigner should act.

Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby) offers counsel in her usual pithy style. "I'd just tell him to behave himself and he has a good chance.

"I think people are probably much more compassionate this go-around than last time," she says. "They've thought it out."

Beth Winship, who writes the syndicated advice column "Ask Beth" for teen-agers, was bemused by the return of the one-time candidate.

"My first reaction is it's a very adolescent thing to do," she says. "We think of mature people as being in more control of their desires and impulses, which seems to be one of his problems. It seems to me it's rather unrealistic at this point -- maybe again that's very adolescent, the insistence that everything will be rosy." Winship knows, and reminds her readers, that everything will not always be rosy, that what she calls "the it-can't-happen-here syndrome" is delusive and that actions do have consequences -- lessons she wonders if Hart has learned.

"I suppose in a way that was some of the appeal of this man," she says, "that he was rugged and vigorous. Sometimes we look a little wistfully back at adolescence and wish we could be like that again, but we can't be, and we know better."

Astrologer Jeane Dixon isn't surprised that Hart jumped back in the race -- "I had predicted it," she asserts. Nevertheless, she insists, "My advice to him is to lie low and not try for the presidency. In 1990, he has a chance to be elected or appointed to a high office, but not to the presidency." And she doesn't see next February -- when Hart will be facing the voters in the New Hampshire primary -- as a lucky time for him. "He's going to be very embarrassed again."

You heard it here first.

Psychiatrist Norman Tamarkin, a man who knows the psychological power of symbols, offers practical advice. He suggests that Hart begin his campaign by buying a motor home.

"He says he's not going to have a campaign office or all the trappings -- I would make his home the campaign office and get a trailer and travel with his family," says Tamarkin. "I would never stay in a hotel, but in the trailer or with other people along with his family. The symbol of hotels -- it means money, it means sex. He's got to stay out of hotels like the plague. I wouldn't even eat in restaurants, I'd eat at people's homes or in the trailer. I can see him coming out in his plaid shirt and his wife in back making eggs ...

"Before, Gary Hart was never at home, literally and figuratively. People said, 'Where is he? What does he stand for?' Then it got literal, 'In what bed is he?' Now he'll always be at home even if he's in Iowa."

Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist, talk show guest and product-endorser, is not optimistic about Hart's chances. While marriages usually survive infidelity, Brothers says, she suspects presidential campaigns have a rougher time.

"Even though people are unfaithful, they still hold leaders to a more responsible level and it is very difficult for them to forgive. You would think because people do it, they would say, 'Okay, it's all right.' But it isn't. Their own guilt makes them harder on others -- not others who do it, but others who get caught, because they don't want to identify with someone who has gotten caught."

At least one advising soul, usually only too eager to take on explosive subjects, chose to remain silent on the issue of the day. A spokesman for Dr. Ruth Westheimer says, "She didn't comment when he quit, and she doesn't want to comment now that he's back in."

Ann Landers was unavailable for comment, but precedent shows that she might have begged off as well. Just last week she disappointed readers by refusing to offer any marital counsel to Prince Charles and Princess Diana, saying she would wait for the royal couple to contact her themselves. "Right now, it's all I can do to respond to the people who do write," Landers wrote.

Perhaps someone should pass on the address to Hart.

"If you listened to him today," says New York media consultant David Garth, "he said that he wasn't going to be packaged. So he'll become the second nonpackaged presidential package after Paul Simon. That, in itself, is a good strategy."

Gary Hart may be determined to run a consultant-free campaign, but not surprisingly, the political pros are happy to offer free advice. Not since he dropped from the race last May has Hart given the pundits and advisers such a productive day.

The suggestions begin with surprising agreement on one point: Hart would do better to drop that old campaign staple, the supporting-wife freeze-frame. Lee Hart standing by her man in her crimson coat may not work for this particular candidate, some say.

"If I were doing his campaign, I would absolutely not feature his family -- anywhere," says Doug Watts, Ronald Reagan's 1984 media director. "It's too overstated and it reminds the voters of his problem." Watts' advice to Hart: "Shorten your hair and put some gray in it, sport glasses ..."

"His wife should not have been at his side today in New Hampshire for the photos," says Democratic media consultant Carter Eskew. "Once again, voters had to see that awkward embrace. I know her absence would be as remarkable as her presence -- but I would want to avoid public wincing."

Democratic image specialist Robert Squier, who refuses to take Hart's resurrection seriously, offers these suggestions to his one-time client:

He should "never talk about boats or water."

And "if he has to talk about price supports, talk corn or soybeans -- never mention rice."

Says Lee Atwater, George Bush's campaign manager, "I think Gary Hart is going to be a credible candidate -- unless Jimmy Carter or Joe Biden try to jump in."

Some campaign pros are a bit more serious. "We're in unchartered water here," says Robert Beckel, Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign manager. "We have to be careful. This could be the shortest running comedy, the longest running tragedy or the most brilliant strategic move in politics."

But other experts think Hart is beyond help.

"When you're running to be the nation's first teacher, you have to prove to people that you've learned your lesson," says pollster Geoffrey Garin. "He hasn't done that. He started to tell people that he's made mistakes -- but he hasn't really been willing to say he's a different person, and that essentially he won't do it again."

When one turns to the voters themselves, the magnitude of Hart's repackaging problem quickly becomes apparent. By midafternoon yesterday, despite widespread media coverage of his noon announcement, the once-and-current candidate's name was not exactly on the nation's lips.

"Hart's back in the race?" asked Larry McWay, vice president of the United Steelworkers Local 1014 in Gary, Ind. "We have thrown all of our support to Jesse Jackson."

Americans contacted in an extremely random sampling seemed more befuddled than eager to help. In Harrisonville, N.H., Gretchen Poisson, who breeds and trains horses, says, "I don't know if he is going to be nearby, but I probably wouldn't even waste my time going to see him. I think he's only doing it to get funds."

Barbara Watkins, a bookkeeper at Harrisonville Design, said, "I was incredulous. I mean he's really going to do it? ... He sort of lost my trust. He was sort of flaunting his whole thing."

In San Francisco, Richard Berman, the manager of City Lights bookstore, professed little interest:

"Nobody here is talking about it," he said. "I think it is a good thing to ignore all this previous negative publicity because it was nonsense. But I'm not excited about it. I didn't think he was a great candidate. I just thought he got shafted."

Jerome Muldrew, chairman of the department of social studies at Little Rock (Ark.) Central High School, said it is sad for the young people he knows. "My students feel that this is useless. In other words, he had his chance and why should he come back on the scene?"

But since he has, "I wouldn't waste time trying to explain the incident that caused him to get out of the race in the first place. I'd try as much as possible to highlight the politics of the Democratic Party.

"Of course a lot of people are going to bring up these situations."

John Wesche, a caseworker for Onondaga County Child Protective Services in Syracuse, saw Hart's decision to reenter the race on CNN. "And I said this is ridiculous. Is this a pathetic joke? Is he going for a movie contract?"

There's at least one locale, however, where the mood is more forgiving. Unfortunately, the citizens there can't vote in American presidential elections.

"I personally thought he would have done well," said Ossie Brown, manager of the Compleat Angler Hotel in Bimini, the small Bahamian island made famous by Gary Hart, Donna Rice, Lynn Armandt and William Broadhurst. "A lot of people would come down to see where he was and stuff like that. We have some of the write-ups and a picture of the four of them on our bandstand here.

"The American people are the ones who are going to have to make the decisions on that. But, best of luck to him, man."