Cleveland — Sen. John Glenn is by nature a cautious politician who refuses to be rushed intothings and who agonizes over decisions. And he is approaching a bid for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination no differently.
Although several close friends have urged the six-year Ohio senator to become more active politically and to begin building a campaign organization for 1984, Mr. Glenn has tried to keep a relatively low profile and avoid being tagged as an active candidate for the nomination.
"I'm not ruling anything in or anything out," has been Glenn's stock response to questions about his presidential ambitions. But glenn told a close friend just before last Christmas that he felt he was as qualified and as electable as other potential Democratic candidates and probably would run.
It is believed Glenn does not want to become too active until he can assess President Reagan's political strength late next year.
The senator has attacked Mr. Reagan's budget cuts as being indiscriminate. He has been especially critical of Reagan's cutbacks in the synthetic fuels program, an area in which Glenn has some expertise. Another issue may be nuclear nonproliferation, where he has warned of the spread of nuclear weapons. Glenn criticized Israel's raid on an Iraqi nuclear installation.
The senator's lopsided reelection last year helped move him into the ranks of potential Democratic candidates for 1984. He won his second term last year with 1.6 million votes, an Ohio record, at a time when many Democratic senators were being defeated.
"I think John Glenn is perceived right now by the political people as a possible very serious and significant candidate," says Robert Strauss, former Democratic national chairman and President Carter's campaign chairman last year.
Mr. Strauss, whom Senator Glenn has consulted for advice on 1984, rates former vice- president Walter F. Mondale as the favorite now for the 1984 nomination.
Former national chairman John C. White said Mr. Mondale and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts are the leading candidates now because they have run nationwide before and have constituencies. He said Glenn probably leads the pack of other potential candidates.
A Harris poll of Democrats and independents in July favored Mr. Kennedy with 31 percent, followed by Mondale (22 percent), and Glenn and California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. (10 percent each).
This was Glenn's first inclusion in such a poll and his standing has higher than some candidates who have been more actively seeking the nomination.
Glenn's image as a moderate, middle-of-the-road Democrat is viewed by many politicians as his biggest asset, coupled with his earlier career as an astronaut. Some politicians have likened his appeal to that of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Mr. Glenn has spoken at Democratic functions this year in Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.
His biggest event was the annual Cook County Democratic dinner in Chicago May 14, an appearance where some Chicago area politicians said he fared no better or worse than some previous speakers.
The general reaction to the senator's appearances has been favorable and he has said he is "quite pleased" by his receptions.
The senator is not expected to attend many more political events outside Ohio this year. Next year he is expected to make selected campaign appearances for Democratic candidates.
He has received offers of help in early primary or caucus states, such as Iowa, but the senator, unlike Kennedy and Mondale, has not formed a political action committee.