Before you decide on your presidential candidate for 1980, stop for a minute. List some of the potential candidates. And then weigh how each of them would have handled the Great Washington Snow Storm of '79, had he been in charge.

President Jimmy Carter's staff was at first confused over reports that the Rose Garden was filled with "snow." "Is it Peruvian or Colombian?" one senior aide asked, as he trudged into his office.

The nature of the problem was addressed forthrightly by the president, who explained that snow was "actually only particles of water vapor which had frozen in the upper atmosphere and fallen to earth as white, crystalline flakes."

Nevertheless, Carter did "deplore" this particular snowfall, and he announced the formation of a National Snow Reorganization and Deregulation Task Force, under the direction of former Democratic national chairman and inflation czar and current Special Trade Representative Robert Strauss. Strauss pledged a full report by May 30 and invited a few key reporters to his Watergate penthouse apartment for Texas chili.

Accompanied by the U.S. Olympic bobsled team and Mork and Mindy, and obviously enjoying himself while kidding with happy throngs alone the route, President Edward Kennedy skied down Wisconsin Avenue from Western to M Street and held an impromptu press conference at Clyde's, a Georgetown restaurant.

While the president's family and aides served hot chocolate and croissants to the press and several hundred festive onlookers, Kennedy said the recent storm "only serves to confirm what this administration has maintained: Every Washington family, regardless of influence or affluence, has an equal right to its own plow. This tragedy once again presents proof that the shovel cartel and its slush-fund cronies in Congress can no longer 'snow' the American people."

The president passionately concluded: "Drift is unacceptable to this nation and to this administration. Let history record that we, at this time and in this place, faithful to our precious legacy, said 'no' to snow."

The only apparently discordant voices at the event were raised by representatives of two local catering services, Avignon-Freres and Ridgewell's, who insisted that the croissants had been charged and not contributed.

President Edmund G. Brown Jr. revealed that the 23-inch snow "was actually less than the eight inches which had fallen one week earlier."

Brown reminded reporters that he had "predicted this blizzard long before either Willard or Gordon Barnes, and it should be obvious to everyone, not in a comatose state from nonspartan living or non-Aristotelian thinking, that 'Just as the worm does not seek the bird, neither does the flower seek the snow."

President Ronald Reagan, who proclaimed earlier today that all non-essential federal employees should stay home, remained in the family quarters at the White House with Mrs. Reagan, reading aloud from the "Blank Verse of Efrem Zimbalist Jr."

Mr. Reagan defended the giving of top priority to plowing all one-way streets leading out of the city to the suburbs and demonstrated his own vigor by shoveling snow for 4 1/2 minutes while television cameras recorded the event.

Reagan wore a red, white and blue nylon jump suit for the occasion, with the presidential seal on the front and a J.P. Stevens label on the back.

President Jack Kemp explained patiently that giving first priority to clearing the White Flint parking lot of Bloomingdale's and I. Magnin's was consistent with his philosophy.

"It's really quite simple," he said, "Washington's Birthday sales generally mean price cuts of 33 1/3 percent. We know that if White Flint is plowed, it will be an incentive for individuals to clear their own routes to anti-inflation."

Kemp also criticized the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee for foot-dragging on his proposal to allow business and personal tax deductions for depreciation of snow and for business meals where snow removal is discussed.

President Daniel Patrick Moynihan, perched on a U.S. Army jeep, sporting a green beret and reciting Robert Frost poetry from memory, refused to apologize for clearing the Pentagon parking lot before Capitol Hill.

"The New Left may tell us that words are weapons in the war of ideas," he observed, "but the Kremlin knows that the Congressional Record does not have the payload of a single B1. And I do not mean vitamins."

President George Bush, in a report to the nation, declared that it was "almost providential" that Washington's worst snow storm occurred during his administration.

"You may recall," Mr. Bush said, "as I mentioned during my successful campaign for the presidency, that I was born and went to prep school and college in New England, served as party chairman, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. representative to China, member of Congress from Texas and have been a successful businessman."

"I lived through the New Haven blizzard of '38 and the Peking blizzard of '73. And so did millions of others, red-blooded Americans and red-blooded Chinese. They did so because they had the God-given right to work, without interference from the AFL-CIO or federal bureaucrats."

President Howard Baker defended his administration's policy of plowing only one lane -- straight down the middle of the road -- on each avenue, and said he wanted to hear all sides before he reached any final or further decision.

President John Connally, discarding his L. L. Bean boots for his old Gucci loafers, sauntered along a totally dry Pennsylvania Avenue only 12 hours after two feet of snow fell on Washington. All streets were clear of both snow and ice and the president was obviously pleased with himself and his administration.

But Sen. George McGovern took to the Senate floor to charge that the snow-removal was accomplished with "the smell of kickbacks and the sweat of wetbacks."

A Connally spokesman defended the granting of battlefield commissions in the Air Force to 157 farmers on the Mall, who cleared 300 miles of Washington roads with their tractors in 95 minutes.

The Brown & Root Plowing Company of Potomac refused to comment on McGovern's charge that it was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Connally family and that it had been guaranteed three ambassadorships for supervising the snow removal.