If Mikhail Gorbachev was nervous or distracted by problems back in the Soviet Union, he did not let it show to Americans who talked or ate with him during his Washington summit with President Bush.

Guests at two formal dinners, a luncheon at the Soviet Embassy and a meeting of congressional leaders at the embassy said the Soviet president exuded self-confidence and appeared unworried by events elsewhere. Minnesotans who met him yesterday agreed. In his manner, style and words, Gorbachev surprised many who had expected to find a leader who was worn and worried.

"Gorbachev is not down in any sense," said Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee "He is up, he still has his sense of humor and he has incredible energy."

"I was very struck by his confidence, his ebullience," said Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), who also was in the congressional delegation that met with the Soviet leader Friday. "He doesn't seem to be a man in any state of concern about his own fate."

Whitney MacMillan, chairman and chief executive officer of Cargill Inc., dined with Gorbachev in Moscow last week and met him yesterday for the fourth time during a business roundtable in Minneapolis. "I find him a very self-confident, very energetic individual. . . . There is something that is religious about his vision for the future of Russia," MacMillan said.

Roger Hale, chief executive officer of Tennant Company, a manufacturer of industrial cleaning equipment and a roundtable participant, said he was struck by "the ability to be serious yet have a pleasant, forceful appearance about him -- no peculiar twitches, no mannerisms. He's just right there."

Ian Martin, president and chief executive officer of Pillsbury Co., added that he "was enormously impressed" by Gorbachev and "found him inspiring."

Meredith Brokaw, wife of NBC-TV's Tom Brokaw, who was at the White House dinner Thursday night, said she was won over by Gorbachev's "big grin, jovial, like he was at ease." But, then, she added: "He is an old hand at this. He has been at state dinners before."

"I found him to be genuine and sincere and relaxed," said Walter V. Shipley, chief executive officer of Chemical Bank of New York, who sat two seats away from Gorbachev during that dinner. When Shipley asked about the Soviet leader's boyhood, the banker said Gorbachev launched into "a feeling discussion about his growing up in a small village and the agricultural section, the tough war years {and} how much he missed the simple life."

Shipley said he was impressed. "I commented that I felt, I could see in him that background, the sensitivity, the qualities that flow from that background."

Former Sen. Eugene McCarthy gave a mixed review to Gorbachev's luncheon meeting with a group of American intellectuals. ". . . He had no adversaries, so there was no need to be tough. It was like nuns talking to the pope," McCarthy said. ". . . He rambled a little bit, but I thought it was pretty much appropriate for the group and the event."

Roderick Hills, husband of Carla A. Hills, the U.S. trade representative who sat next to Gorbachev at the White House dinner, said his wife found Gorbachev fully in control: "He was quite precise, quite in command, quite willing to speak both philosophically and materially about the events, quite understanding about the need to move toward free economy and open trade, quite aware of the precise things that have to be done and understanding of the ambiguity with which two countries try to form a new relationship."

Washington Post Publisher Donald E. Graham, who also sat at the table with Gorbachev, said: "I was struck by how good he seemed. He makes immediate direct eye contact with each person he talks to. He's always close to a smile. . . . As he spoke at the state dinner, delivering his toast, you could see that as he read his speech, he was twiddling his thumbs the whole time.

"There is some ceremonial aspect of this that must bore him by now, but I thought he seemed engaged and interested," Graham said. "At the state dinner, he and Bush looked much more fresh and vigorous than some of their aides did, who had been up late."

James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, a fluent Russian-speaker who met Gorbachev twice last week as well as during his earlier visit to Washington, said, "This is a man who has certain constants in his persona, who impresses you by sharing with you his problems as well as his viewpoints.

"He does have a magnetic directness, but it's always at the service of a political objective," Billington said. "By constantly comparing him to the style of previous {Soviet} leaders rather than by examining the substance of what he says and engaging in a discussion of the real problems of the day, we often miss an opportunity to make progress on real problems. . . . "

Staff Writers Tom Kenworthy and John Lancaster contributed to this report.