OKAY, LET'S REVIEW THIS GARY Hart business. First, he supposedly spent a weekend in a D.C. town house with a bathing-suit model. Then he had his mug splashed across the National Enquirer with the same woman on his lap during a trip to Bimini on a yacht called . . . Monkey Business? And he's still running for president? Of the United States? Has there ever been a brassier presidential candidate?

Hmmmm. Funny you should ask. Consider the case of William Crawford, secretary of the treasury under James Monroe. He stayed in the 1824 presidential race even after he had a stroke.

But then, Crawford was known as an especially contentious sort even before the stroke. He had been part of a Capitol Hill cabal that labeled rival Gen. Andrew Jackson a murderer when he had two British citizens executed as spies while fighting Indians in Florida. Crawford accused another rival, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, of being against slavery in an effort to cut into his southern support.

Adams, in turn, called Crawford an ambitious intriguer. Jackson insisted he was a "scoundrel." Secretary of War John C. Calhoun hit the nail on the head -- he said Crawford was a "worm."

The prayers of Crawford's foes were answered in September 1823, when he had a massive stroke. For months he was confined to bed and couldn't talk, couldn't see. Washington was rife with speculation about the missing candidate. Finally, "summoning a carriage, he quit his darkened room and, propped against pillows, showed himself in the streets of the Capital," according to Marquis James, a biographer of Jackson.

Those renewed efforts at strenuous campaigning proved to be too much. He had a relapse. Henry Clay spread the definitive word in a letter from Washington that described Crawford as near death with a "paralytic stroke." But Crawford refused to quit.

The candidate's supporters claimed in September 1924 that he had nothing more than a "thick tongue." In October, though, when Crawford made a rare campaign appearance, he refused to remove his hat and acted queerly.

Despite it all, Crawford won three states in November -- more than Walter Mondale or George McGovern won. Because neither Adams nor Jackson had a majority, the vote was thrown to the House of Representatives.

Adams won the runoff, but Crawford goes down as the true grit candidate of all time.