Start out with a couple of stories about Ronald Reagan that hitherto have not surfaced - and you get further reinforcement for the thesis that he, indeed, likes being President, enough to run again.
The President's top adviser on decisions of this nature (he also played an important role in the Reagan decision to seek a second term as governor) is Mike Deaver. The other morning, Deaver, who is convinced that Reagan will seek re-election, provided these anecdotes:
* On Inauguration Day in 1981 the President and Deaver, both still in formal dress, walked into the White House together and began to talk about where various Reagan people would have their offices.
''We came,'' Deaver said, ''to this small office (just outside the spacious, impressive, but not very functional Oval Office where presidents hold court), and I told the President, 'This is where Carter worked. You probably will want to keep this for yourself. Or you might want an office over in the Executive Office Building - like the one Nixon had.' ''
''No,'' said Reagan, according to Deaver, ''I've been trying all these years to become President. So now that I'm here I'm going to work right in the Oval Office.'' Obviously this was a President who was set on enjoying being President - a man who relished the perks of office. That's the way Deaver put it, anyway.
* ''Then,'' Deaver said, ''there was that day in spring when that terribly hot, humid Washington weather hit us for the first time. We had to go outside for some kind of a ceremony, and we all were taking off our jackets. And so I suggested to the President that he do the same. And he said, 'No, I can't do that. I have too much respect for the presidency to do that.' ''
This, Deaver said, was just another illustration of how much the President appreciates the importance of what he is doing, how this is a life's fulfillment for him that he isn't likely to relinquish unless he has to.
Deaver also says that the President is a man who genuinely believes in the old-fashioned virtues that he so often voices - and that Reagan thus would see it his duty and responsibility to stay on another four years to make sure he had put his programs fully in place.
Meanwhile, Reagan continues to tease his listeners with comments about running again. One story about the President will say that Reagan has ''strongly indicated'' he would seek reelection. Another will say that he has ''come very close to throwing his hat into the ring.'' And another will say that he ''almost announced'' his decision to go after a second term.
Thus, even though there are a few skeptical observers who think Reagan isn't going to run, just about everyone you talk to on the subject seems convinced that the President is already deeply involved in the race. When he goes to Knoxville, Tenn., and thumps the tub for better education, the interpretation in the media is that Reagan is developing one of his campaign issues. When he participates in the Williamsburg summit, the widely disseminated media analysis is that he is using this occasion to create a public impression for the 1984 campaign that he is deft in handling global issues and in dealing with foreign leaders.
So it is that the President has built up this anticipation on the part of the public that he is on the verge of an announcement. Further, he has encouraged his possible challengers, including Sen. Howard Baker and Congressman Kemp, not to mention Vice-President Bush, to feel there was little use in making the preparations necessary for a run for the presidency which they would only consider if Reagan stepped aside.
The Republican Party, too, is prepared only for a Reagan race - and would be caught by complete surprise, and very un-prepared, should the President suddenly decide to step aside.
Thus the President has now gone so far in building up expectations for 1984 that he has almost locked himself into running for that Oval Office again.