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
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''Are you kidding?'' she says. ''No. I think it's very exciting, for several reasons - one of which is that people are no longer hiding behind their hands and giggling when they talk about a woman for national office, and I think that's wonderful.''Skip to next paragraph
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SECOND, she sees the discussion as highlighting the ''plight of women in this country.''
''And third, quite frankly I'm enjoying the fact that I'm getting a little more publicity. . . . If I decide to run for the Senate in 1986, it's helping me out.''
The nominee for president will make his decision not on any desire for symbolism but on the basis of cold, hard reasoning, Mrs. Ferraro reckons. ''I think the vice-presidency's too important an office to deal with it from a symbolic point of view, and I also think no one is going to give it to a woman just because she's a woman,'' she says. ''It's going to be because that woman is going to be able to bring a constituency to the ticket that they feel they absolutely need.''
Representative Ferraro has demonstrated enough political skill that her conservative district forgives her her liberal leanings and sends her back to Washington with generous vote margins. Although she spends weekends back home, she manages to pack her weekdays with enough of the right kind of activity to be noticed.
If there is one description that her colleagues give her, it is that she's a worker. ''She's a workhorse, not just a showhorse,'' says fellow New York Rep. Thomas J. Downey (D). ''I think she's one of the most effective women - one of the most effective members - in Congress,'' he adds.
''It's hard being a woman in the House of Representatives, because there aren't many of them, and a woman is always viewed with more skepticism,'' Representative Downey says. ''There is more to overcome, and she has.''
This assessment is seconded by Rep. Gillis W. Long of Louisiana, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, a group that has twice elected Mrs. Ferraro secretary.
Representative Ferraro has been visible almost since entering Congress. In 1980 she delivered the keynote address at the Democratic convention. She is quick to agree that she has been handed some of her breaks. ''Absolutely,'' she agrees, adding, ''I think I've made a couple of good breaks myself.
Her one failure was her bid to join the powerful Ways and Means Committee. She was turned down, largely because New York was already represented. Instead, she won a seat on the Budget Committee, where as a newcomer she made a mark in budget areas affecting women.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Ferraro did not give up on her effort to put a Democratic woman on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. She backed Rep. Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut, who won a seat. The fact that Mrs. Ferraro lost didn't dampen her support for helping another woman succeed, Representative Kennelly says.
Mrs. Ferraro is a ''woman for all seasons,'' adds the Connecticut Democrat. ''She has three children, a happy marriage, and she was a prosecutor in the district attorney's office, which was tough work.'' Of all the women mentioned for vice-president, her name pops up the most often ''because she's the one who passes all the tests,'' Representative Kennelly says. Congresswoman Ferraro will have a chance to build her national reputation as chairwoman of the Democratic platform committee, a visible role that will take her to six cities for hearings.
If Geraldine Ferraro is the Washington name most often spoken, then the outsider most named is Dianne Feinstein, mayor of San Francisco for five years and possibly the best-known Democratic woman in the United States.