Micheal Dodge is not the HUD regional office director in Dallas, and Kenneth Sain is not the HEW regional man in Chicago. And thereby hangs a tale.

It is a tale of two Cabinet secretaries - Housing and Urban Development's Patricia Roberts Harris and Health, Education and Welfare's Joseph A. Califano Jr. - successfully fighting off strong pressure from the White House, key members of Congress and Democratic Party officials for patronage jobs that pay between $33,789 and $47,500 a year.

These regional directorships - controlling thousands of politically sensitive loval decisions - are more prized by the politicians in a winning presidential candidate's party than almost any other jobs below the Cabinet level. "These are the people their constituents really deal with," said one White House patronage official.

So the fact that the power of the Texas congressional delegation was unable to swing the HUD job in Dallas for Dodge, a Dallas builder-developer, and the Chicago organization couldn't push Deputy Mayor Sain down Califano's throat makes it look like the Carter administration is settling a standard higher than its predecessors for those sensitive jobs.

Maybe, and maybe not. If you look at Boston, what you see is that the regional directors of both HUD and Commerce are longtime aides and associates of Sen, Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

The Small Business and Administration's new man in Boston was one of the first Carter supporters in Connecticut, and his counterpart in the Environmental Protection Agency come out of the cabinet of Democratic National Chairman Kenneth B. Curtis when Curtis was governor of Maine.

Politics prevails after all? Perhaps. But the answers seems to be that the regional office appointments of the Carter administration fit no single pattern.

Merit, experience and skills helped cinch some jobs, political connections, others. In some cases, quite plainly, the person was picked because he or she satisfied the demand for demographic diversity. But the decision as to which jobs were filled in which way baffles many of the participants.

In Seattle, for example, HEW is retaining as its regional director the man Richard M. Nixon named to the job eight years ago. But SBA accepted the person suggested by the Washington Democratic Party chairman, and Commerce obliged Sen. Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.), who happens to be chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, by naming Leonard Saari, an aide to Rep. Llyod Meeds (D-Wash.), as its regional director in Seattle.

Yet, when Democratic State Chairman Neale V. Chaney heard the name of the HUD choice for the Seattle regional office, he had to call the office of Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) to find out who the man was. Chaney says that before he got a chance to ask the question, a Jackson aide asked the same thing of him.

As it happens, the HUD appointee had been in the Seattle office of HUD for some time. George Roybal, a Hispanic-American, had been working as the equal-opportunity officer until his own opportunity knocked.

A survey by the Washington Post of the backgrounds of the 44 people so far named to the senior regional office jobs by the Carter administration indicates that just over half - 27 of them - appear to have had significant political backing or connections. Of those 29, nine could boast and obvious "Carter connection."

All of the eight federal co-chairman of regional commissions and all four of the SBA Regional directors so far named had strong political credentials. So did five of the 10 HUD appointees, five of the nine in Commerce, and two of three so far picked in HEW. But EPA has only three of 10 who fit into that category.

One reason for the crazy-quilt pattern is that President Carter, as part of his effort to encourage "Cabinet government," gave his department and agency heads broad discretion in picking their own regional deputies, thus limiting the White House's direct patronage powers in this area.

Commerce and HUD officials say they got "pushed hard" by the White House on only one appointment each. An EPA officials says its dealings with the White House were "strictly limited to notification."

She recalls Jim King, the White House personnel (patronage) chief, telling an early meeting. "We all know we've got people to take care of, but not at EPA. The President has a commitment to this area, and the bottom line is 'no hacks.'"

A second reason for the mixed pattern is that the regional jobs have different significance and functions at different agencies. Commerce, Labor and HEW use them pricipally as personal representatives of the Secretary, while HUD , SBA and EPA give them important line (administrative) responsibilities.

Despite the decentralization of decision-making, all the agencies have baction appointments.

In fact, the pressure is growing. Commerce and EPA, which moved fastest in filing the regional jobs, named three women, two blacks and 14 white males. HUD, a bit slower, named one Hispanic, two women, three blacks on a female and five white males.

HEW, which delayed its appointments for a major reorganization (and downgrading) of regional office responsibilities, has named one black female, one black male and one (holdover) white male so far. "We has some calls from congressional offices," an HEW official acknowledges, "saying that everyone who's been named in such-and-such a city so far is a white male."

Labor, which is only now beginning to pick its people, amy experience even greater pressure for affirmative action appointments, some White House officials say.

While many of the appointments have been political, it is hard to discern a pattern of rewards clearly related to carter's own political history. Four of the Philadelphia regional office jobs have been filled, and not one has gone to a Pennsylvania, despite the fact that the state gave Carter key victories in both the primary and the general election. One the other hand. Colorado Democrates have gained all five of the regional office assignments in Denver, despite the fact their state blanked Carter in both the nomination struggle and the election.

Here is the picture of the various departments that emerges from The Washington Post survey.

Commerce - Moving fast and with what others regard as political deftness. Commerce filled nine of its 10 jobs with a mixture of appointees. A career man was promoted in Philadelphia, a Democrat who had been named to the job by Elliot Richardson was held over in Dallas, a black New Hersey civil servant was appointed in New York City, and a blcak academic was picked over a politically connected white man in San Francisco.

In Boston, Commerce chose Helen Keyes, a longtime Kennedy family retainer who had been working on the Kennedy Library. In Chicago, it picked Loren Wittner, a lawyer active in the Carter campaign who was strongly pushed by Carter's Illinois chairman James Wall and by Paul Sullivan, Executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

In Atlantic, it was no contest when the White House indicated the President wanted the job for Paul Hemmann, who had worked for him on both his gubernational and campaign staffs. And ex-Gov. Steve NcNichols of Colorado had no trouble getting the Denver office.

EPA - The least political of the agencies, EPA has retained the Ford Administration directors in Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, and pormoted career employees to regional directorships in New York and Atlanta. Even the more political appointees have strong environmental backgrounds.

William Adams in Boston was the head of Maine's environmental agency. Jack Schramm, a Missouri legislator and author of most of that state's environmental laws, took over the Philadelphia office. Adlene Harrison, the Dallas director, was a Dallas city councilwoman who first met EPA administrator Douglas Costle when he came to Dallas as an advance man for Lyndon B. Johnson. But Harrison is also an expert on land use and zoning.

Harrison and Kay Camin, the Kansas City choice, are EPA's first women regional directors. Camin, an economics Ph. D. had been teaching at Wichita State and was honored for her work on strip-mining legislation.

Alan Merson, the Denver office head, became a hero to environmentalists when he defeated Rep. Wayne Aspinall, then chairman of the House Interior Committee, in a Democratic congressional primary a few years ago. Merson lost the general election, but has remained active on both political and environmental fronts as a member of the Colorado Land Use Commission.

HEW - California, after much travail, has downgraded the regional jobs from positions with important administrative responsibilities to being "the eyes and ears" of the Secretary, responsibilities for assessing program operations and serving as the department's spokesman to the public and elected officials.

His first decision was to keep Bernard (Buck) Kelly, a well-regarded professional named to the job in the Nixon administration, as the Seatttle office head. He pleased Texas Democrats by naming Eddie Bernice Johnson, a psychiatric nurse who was the first black woman elected to the Texas legislature from Dallas, to run the Dallas office.

He please the White House by picking Wellington WebbM a black Colorado legislature-teacher, who ran the Carter campaign in that state, for the Denver job.

But he pleased almost no one by waging a long rear-guard action against enormous pressure from every top enormous pressure from every top Democrat in Illinois (and eventually, the White House, too) to give the Chicago office to Deputy Mayor Kenneth Sain, a protege of the late Mayor Richard Daley.

Califano, who reportedly had doubts about Sain's ability to handle the job, eventually offered it to Sain but only after he had made his misgivings so evident that Sain's authority would clearly be in question.

With the job diminished in importance and Califano's doubts writ large, Sain last week said "no" to the Califano "offer."

HUD - The regional directors are major figures in HUD's continuing battle to improve its spotty management record and deal with the problems that have long plagued the department. In addition to seeking administrative strength, officials say they also wanted affirmative-action recruiting for a department which had had no women regional directors and only one black in its history.

First, however, there was top level insistence, which HUD eventually accepted, that Kennedy's assistant Ed Martin be given the Boston job. in New York, a battle between the mayor and governor was side-stepped by picking professional redevelopment official Thomas Appleby.

Tom Maloney, the former mayor of Wilmington, Del., and an unsuccessful Senate candidate, was a natural for the Philadelphia job, where no one wanted to reward either Mayor Frank Rizzo or Gov. Milton Shapp (D.), Russ Marane, a young regional planner, was not hurt by the fact that he ran Carter's campaign in South Carolina, and was given Atlanta.

Ron Gatton, a black official of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and friend of Carter ally Coleman Young, the mayor of Detroit, went to the Chicago office. William Anderson, a career HUD official and a black, was named for Kansas City. Betty Jane, Miller, director of Colorado's department of local affairs took Denver, and, as a second woman. HUD picked Emma McFarland, a black planning professor at UCLA. She is in Los Angeles.

The biggest battle centered on the Dallas office, where Texas Democrats put on a big push for Michael Dodge, who has strong political credentials. HUD did not want him, and finally countered by promoting Tom Armstrong, a solid professional from its New Orleans office.

SBA - True to tradition, SBA has made political choices in all four of the regional jobs so far announced.

In boston, it's Stanley C. Weinberg, a real estate man described by many as the first Carter suporter in the state of Connecticut. In Philadelphia, it's Daniel P. Henson III, a Baltimore black insurance agent and management consultant who worked for Carter in both the primary and general election.

In Kansas City and Seattle, Conrad E. Lawlor and Larry C. Gourlie, who both entered SBA in the Johnson years, have been promoted to regional directorship with the backing of the Iowa and Washington Democratic Party leadership.

Regional Commissions - All eight of the appointees to the federal co-chairmanships of these commissions have clear-cut political credentials.

Cristobal P. (Chris) Aldrete, the Southwest Border co-chairman, is a veteran of the Humphrey campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the office of Sen. Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. (D-Tex).

Claud Anderson, the Coastal Plains man, is a black educator who worked for Florida Gov. Reubin Askew (D) and was deputy campaign manager of Carter's Florida campaign.

F. Keneth Baskette Jr., the Four Corners man, is another alumnus of Gov. Richard Lamm's (D) Colorado administration, backed by the state's congressional delegation.

William R. Bechtel, the Upper Great Lakes co-chairman, is a former administrative assistant to Sen. Geylord Nelson (D-Wis), and since 1974 worked for the administration of Wisconsin Gov. Patrick J. Lucey (D), now ambassador to Mexico.

Patsy Ann Danner, the Ozarks choice, worked for the late Rep. Jerry Litton (D-Mo.), ran unsuccessfully for the House in Missouri and then helped run the Carter campaign in Kentucky.

J. Joseph Grandmaison of Nashua, N.H., the New England co-chairman, has run many campaigns, beginning with Sen. George McGovern's (S-S.D.) 1968 New Hempshire primary. Granmasison was defeated in a 1976 House race of his own, then was picked fore this job.

George D. McCarthy, the Old West man, is a Montana Democrat, who has worked everywhere from the Pentagon to the anti-poverty agency under Democratic administrations.

Patrick J. Vaughan, the Pacific Northwest co-chairman, was special assistant to Cecil Andrus when the present Secretary of the Interior was governor of Idaho.