SAY WHAT YOU WILL about the local stewardship of Marion Barry--as if his countless would-be and will-be opponents weren't already doing so--the man is no amateur when it comes to meshing powers of incumbency with the advent of a re-election campaign. He knows all too well that the road to victory in September is strewn with potholes; so--bingo--you'd better believe he's out to patch things up as fast as possible, to the tune of 35 tons of cold pothole mix almost every day. Why, his crews are so eager to please they've been spotted digging the snow off to find the hole to fix.

Sure, the repairs don't last long, but that's the fault of the elements, which are not under local control, and the manufacturers of pothole filling, whose best stuff has a road-life of little more than a year and a half. But this hasn't been the limit of Mr. Barry's campaign road show; when the snow, ice and chill hardened the city's main arteries, the municipal salt-shakers dumped 10,000 tons around, and when that was gone, ordered 10,000 more.

Not even this sort of shrewd awakening to city services goes uncriticized, of course; every driver has had a pet pothole, or a dead car victimized by a salt- and-battery problem, or a street that was plowed before the cars could get out of the way. But somewhere along the way, every District voter is bound to receive a word of cheer and local uplift from the mayor, either in a tax notice, on billboards reminding us all about "D.C. on the Grow," or in the classrooms of the public schools, where His Honor has been playing teacher this month, somewhat the way he played trashman-for-a-day a few years ago.

>Speaking of trash, perhaps yours was picked up on Monday, a holiday, for the first time in memory. And if you called on Monday to ask about it, someone picked up the phone and explained that on some of the lesser holidays (presumably this means any between now and primary day), the Supercan will fly on schedule.>

Chalk it all up to "just playing politics," but it's not a bad game, considering the off-year record. It's not limited to any one incumbent, either; ask Marylanders, for example, how come they've been treated to "the New Harry Hughes," risen from a below-see-level profile to photogenic and literary prominence on every brochure, notice, press conference and legislative issue you can point to.

There is more to earning re-election than a quadrennial revival of government services, to be sure. And you needn't promise anyone your vote to get attention, because the candidates won't be looking over your shoulder when you cast that ballot. But voter or not, this is the time to enjoy being courted; after all, it's your nickel.