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Is this the year for a woman VP; Neither presidential nominee seems likely to name a woman as his running mate in '84, but for the Democratic Party that move is edging ever closer

By Julia MaloneStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 27, 1984


IT is an idea not universally applauded. Even the liberal magazine, New Republic, has derided the Democratic Party's ''femagoguery,'' as it has called the ''noise and commotion over the notion of a Second Lady.''

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But somehow the proposal of nominating a woman for vice-president does not go away. First proposed by political activists - long before it was certain who the Democratic nominee would be - it has begun to reach the grass roots.

Rep. Patricia Schroeder is concerned that many Americans may now expect the Democrats to name a woman. ''I'm amazed when I talk to people,'' says the Colorado Democrat, who frequently shows up on the list of possible running mates. She is concerned about a ''reality gap,'' she says, and the sense of disappointment that may occur when the vice-president is chosen, and the public discovers that he is a man.

Although virtually no one expects the Democrats to name a woman for its 1984 ticket, some political strategists maintain that such a move could be a key to defeating President Reagan in November. The reasoning is based on participation.

Since the 1960s the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots for president has been dropping. If the Democratic Party can bring these no-shows into the polling place, then it can beat the Republicans because, so the reasoning goes, the new voters would lean toward the Democrats. And a woman on the ticket might be just the drawing card the party needs.

''It would make a difference to women,'' says Ann Lewis, political director of the Democratic National Committee, who adds that voter turnout is a major priority with Democrats this year.

''It's much too early to say it's serious,'' says Edward F. Coyle, director of Independent Action, the political action committee founded by Rep. Morris K. Udall (D) of Arizona. But he says that if the Democratic nominee is a woman, it would energize people. They ''would have to take a second look. It gives the campaign a new edge.''

Roger M. Craver, whose direct-mail company raises funds for several liberal groups as well as for the Democratic National Committee, says this is the year Democrats should put a woman on the ticket. ''I think they would be helped in ' 84; I think they would be helped far into the future,'' he says.

IF a woman were chosen, she would attract more urban voters, who are also prone to vote Democratic, he says. Looking to the future, Mr. Craver notes that women are becoming more important to fund raising, and they already comprise the majority of small givers.

''I think the party and the candidates are taking this very seriously,'' he says.

If so, the person whose name appears most often is a former assistant district attorney from a neighborhood best known as the home of television's Archie Bunker. She is Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro of Queens, N.Y., only five years in Congress and already one of the brightest political stars in the current Democratic galaxy.

In her relatively brief congressional career, Mrs. Ferraro has plunged into national party politics as well as into the leadership of the House. Her background is an appealing mix, some Democratic insiders say: the tough image of a prosecuting attorney in a big-population state combined with being a woman and having Italian ethnic roots.

Moreover, she is not backing away from the call to national politics. In the tiny ''kitchen'' of the congresswoman's hideaway at the Capitol, she is asked if she has tired of the vice-presidential speculation.